With vehicles rapidly becoming more electronic than mechanical, there is a growing demand for testing electronics component in the vehicles, says Rakesh Rao.
In February 2014, Toyota had to recall 1.9 million Prius cars globally to fix a hybrid control unit glitch that was causing the cars to automatically shut down and enter a limp-home failsafe mode. The global callback of Prius models was the biggest recall of the world's best-selling hybrid at that time.
To avoid recall and prevent damage to the brand image, maintaining high quality has become a top priority for carmakers, who are banking on latest test and measuring (T&M) equipment to achieve this goal. “The biggest factor driving the demand for testing instruments from the automotive sector is the new age customer’s discerning need for quality and reliability. The customer does not appreciate breakdowns or recalls. Looking at the needs of such customers, auto majors are continuously upping the quality control parameters and introducing newer test procedures. Companies have realised the impact of recalls on their reputation which is far higher than installing a few test instruments,” opines Vishal Malhotra, Director of Presto Group, a manufacturer of testing and quality control instruments for auto components. Presto, which recently won a National Award for Quality Products from the MSME Ministry, Government of India (GoI), has been at the forefront in helping the automotive industry to produce quality products.
T&M equipment and systems are required for electrical testing, electronics reliability and functional testing, electronics vibration testing, infotainment testing and environmental testing.
The automotive sector has been witnessing technological evolution with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles competing with new hybrid and fully electric cars. Carmakers are also testing autonomous (driverless) vehicles on the road and are building new features which require T&M equipment to measure performance.
While traditional automobiles are being equipped with a number of ‘smart peripherals’ to enhance safety, eco-friendliness, and comfort, new models rely heavily on advanced electrical and electronic control systems. As car buyers continue to expect fast and reliable connectivity between their car’s infotainment system and wireless devices as well as advanced safety systems, the need for automotive system development and testing will continue to grow in the future.
Connected vehicle is one of the biggest technical trends in the world. Majority of cars are designed with a telematics control unit (TCU), an operating system and an ecosystem of apps directly connected to the cloud. The key to this evolution is to ensure a consistent user experience, while maintaining safety.
“India is a big automobile market. Due to low man power cost, many global companies are shifting R&D to India. It helps to drive growth. Focus on car safety and connected world are key reasons to add more and more electronics inside car. This has opened up doors for new testing opportunity. We have seen increase in demand for our products from this sector for various measurements,” opines Madhukar Tripathi, Senior Manager -Sales and Marketing, Anritsu India Pvt Ltd. Anritsu have a wide range to automotive electronics testing solutions, which are primarily used by automotive R&D team like e-call testing, remote key entry (car key) testing. While Anritsu VNA are used for automotive cable testing, its newly launched Ultraportable spectrum analyzer MS2760A is used for automotive RADAR testing.
Increasing investment in research and innovation is also leading to a rise in demand for testing equipment. “We see many companies increasing R&D investment in this sector and Indian automobile industry is overall growing which will create demand for automotive T&M instruments. Be it engine testing or navigational system or infotainment or car aerodynamics testing all need various T&M equipment,” informs Tripathi.
In the highly competitive automotive industry performance and safety are paramount for success. For this, vehicles have to go through testing for various aspects such as safety and driver aids, in-vehicle networks (CAN, optical fibre and RF connectors/cables), intelligent transport systems (ITS), electromagnetic interference and wireless connectivity. While testing is required for various automotive components such as injectors and fuel pumps, infotainment systems, etc, there is also a need to test and validate the various control systems in the vehicle like engine control, body control, active suspension, anti-lock braking system, etc.
In January 2016, the government made it mandatory for vehicle manufactures in the country especially cars for complying with best international standards for safety of driver and passengers and set October 2017 deadline to comply with new norms. To meet the testing requirement, National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP) had proposed to set up new centers, which will have infotronics laboratory and crash testing labs.
The demand for testing equipment is also growing due to the implementation of stringent safety and emissions norms. “Environmental care is important to all. All automobile manufacturers must follow best safety and emission standards and contribute for safer, greener and cleaner world. We must create a clean tomorrow for next generation,” observes Tripathi.
With new global players entering the market, bringing with them international quality standards, the demand for testing requirement is expected to witness increased traction. “The demand for Presto instruments has consistently increased as customers are becoming more quality conscious and looking for far superior quality than what they used to. The traction for quality control is also increasing due to the reduction in margins by auto majors and vendors just cannot afford rejections or after market returns. Opening up of the Indian economy has seen global players coming into the country thereby bringing with them global quality standards, thereby revving up the testing instruments market,” statess Malhotra.
The rise of electronics
The percentage of electronic devices in cars has been growing at an annual rate of 15 per cent. Mechanical components are being replaced by mechatronic or electronic components as in steer-by-wire systems, radar-based safety systems for collision avoidance are being developed, and new telematics systems allowing overall traffic flow control are being designed. To ensure that these devices function to their optimum performances level vigorous testing regime is required. This calls for ever more innovative and complex test strategies in production.
“In the past, wireless devices were primarily used for personal communications. Now they are conquering the world of things and networked machines, sensors and vehicles. However, the technological complexity of this field can only be mastered with the help of specialised test and measurement equipment. Rohde & Schwarz provides this equipment for all phases of the value chain,” says Nasser Jariwala, Director - Sales and Operations (T& M), Rohde & Schwarz India Pvt Ltd.
Since the development of the GSM system simulator in the late 1980s, which paved the way for mass production of digital mobile phones, T&M equipment from Rohde & Schwarz has consistently set standards in the wireless communications industry. “From the standardisation of new processes to the development and manufacture of components, wireless devices and base stations, from the integration of new technologies into network operation to network monitoring and optimisation, Rohde & Schwarz T&M equipment always plays a key role. It supports all established wireless standards and makes a decisive contribution to the development of future technologies for the fifth generation of wireless communications (5G), connected car applications (V2X), machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT),” says Jariwala.
He added, “The automobile is increasingly becoming a technology platform, and the complex interaction between the many different electric and electronic components has to be coordinated. Electric drives and energy storage, radars and sensors, computers and data networks, navigation devices, radio and infotainment modules coexist in the tightest of spaces. As a result, there is a rapidly growing demand for T&M equipment in the automotive industry. Rohde & Schwarz is ideally positioned to satisfy this demand with its unique portfolio of automotive solutions.”
In India, Rohde & Schwarz has established a state-of-the-art repair and calibration centre in Bangalore to cater for the maintenance of its product and provides users with lower down time. “With increasing electronics, government regulations and safety measures for cars on Indian roads, we see a upsurge an double digit growth for our test equipment in the automotive industry. Also, the Government push for Make in India will ensure that the Indian market which has been R&D oriented till date will move towards production which will increased demand for our products,” opines Jariwala.
Customisation & challenges
Implementation of the optical transport network (OTN) and Ethernet for in-vehicle communication make automobiles more sophisticated, leading to the requirement of new testing technologies. Carmakers have unique requirements for every brand, which in turn needs customised testing modules and systems. As a result, testing equipment manufacturers have to be innovative to supply customised solutions to meet the challenging testing requirements of customers. For long-term benefit, the customers (OEMs or tier 1 suppliers) should look for an open system which can allow them hassle-free integration of newer technologies in the future.
Further, the testing systems should be scalable and meet the changing testing requirements of the automotive industry. Conventionally, automakers have been focusing on signals coming from analogue and digital sensors. However, with rise in usage of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems, RF standards have been introduced, which requires scaling up of test systems.
As the lead times or delivery schedules in the industry are quite short, designing new test equipment for the new test environments is an hurdle that needs to be overcome. For example, new technologies such as automatic health monitoring, remote shut down, comprehensive car tracking, night vision driving, autonomous vehicles, etc, will need rigorous electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing. Realising the importance of this, auto component makers and OEMs are investing in in-house EMC facilities.
The future of testing
As more and more electronic components find their way into vehicles, there is a rising need to adopt better testing equipment and standards. “Since majority of cars will have many electronics components inside either for navigation or for safety purpose, automotive companies will have to adapt new technology to improve customer experience and satisfaction. So, we feel new T&M will play important role today and tomorrow in this sector,” opines Tripathi.
Increasing vehicle production, growing awareness about vehicle testing, and increasing installation of test equipment at OEM plants will continue to fuel the growth of the automotive test equipment market. “The auto market, which is the most dynamic (in terms of designs and quality), is and will be one of the strongest growth propellers for Presto. However, it is also a very demanding sector. We have to keep abreast of the latest developments and keep ourselves and our products updated to match up to the auto sector requirements. It is for this reason that we are setting up two new factories which would enhance our capabilities and make us future ready,” says Malhotra. As automotive industry transforms itself by increasing usage of electronics (as a result of rise in demand for infotainment and IoT-enabled devices), testing equipment and solution providers will have to play an important role in
Electric drives and energy storage, radars and sensors, computers and data networks, navigation devices, radio and infotainment modules coexist in the tightest of spaces. As a result, there is a rapidly growing demand for T&M equipment in the automotive industry.
- Nasser Jariwala,
Director - Sales & Operations (T&M), Rohde & Schwarz India Pvt Ltd
Focus on car safety and connected world are key reasons to add more and more electronics inside car. This has opened up doors for new testing opportunity.
- Madhukar Tripathi,
(Sales & Marketing),
Anritsu India Pvt Ltd
The biggest factor driving the demand for testing instruments from the automotive sector is the new age customer’s discerning need for quality and reliability. Companies have realised the impact of recalls on their reputation which is far higher than installing a few test instruments.
- Vishal Malhotra,
Director of Presto Group