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Automotive electronics research aims to improve vehicle life

Imagine a day when it’s easy for an automobile to run 10 years or 100,000 miles without having to worry about the vehicle breaking down or major maintenance issues. Thanks to Pradeep Lall, MacFarlane professor of mechanical engineering and director of the CAVE3 Electronics Research Center, that day may be sooner than you think.

Lall, and a group of graduate research students, are examining ways to create better automotive electronic systems to function in harsh environments over a longer period of time through Auburn University’s Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics.

CAVE3 is a National Science Foundation Industry University Cooperative Research Center, founded in 1999, and focuses on automotive and extreme environment electronics.

Previously, the traditional automotive electronics may have consisted of climate control systems and entertainment systems. A failure of the automotive electronics may have resulted in an inconvenience. Today, you will find automotive electronics consists of driving assists such as antilock braking systems, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, parking assist and GPS. The next generation automotive systems have an increased emphasis on the integration of sensors into automotive surfaces for autonomous driving, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. In addition, there is an increased emphasis on the connectivity with communication devices, wireless charging, emergency responders and vehicle health monitoring. Failure of one of the systems is no longer a major inconvenience – it may be critical to the safe operation of the vehicle.

CAVE3 has researched several methods toward improving these systems including studies on high temperature environments and vibration to examine damage initiation and progression. Other research programs in CAVE3 have focused on the study of failure mechanisms of electronics in harsh automotive extremes in addition to the development of databases of failure modes, effects and criticality to guide accelerated tests based on physics of failure.

Lall’s work within the CAVE3 center has been nationally recognized by 2016 NSF IUCRC Association’s Alex Schwarzkopf Prize for Technology Innovation. The award was given to a researcher or team out of more than 120 IUCRC centers in the country.