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Time apt for cars' electronic makeover, says GM exec

Posted: 08 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:hydrogen fuel cells? GM cars? electric vehicles?

The time is ripe to reinvent the automobile. So says the man who heads the R&D efforts over at General Motors.

"We want to take the automobile totally out of the environmental debate," said Larry Burns, VP of research and development and strategic initiatives, who delivered the first keynote at this week's 44th annual Design Automation Conference in San Diego.

"We literally have an opportunity to reinvent the automobile around these exciting technologies." Burns spoke a few feet from a Chevrolet Sequel vehicleone of two GM has manufactured that runs entirely on hydrogen fuel cell technology. GM officials recently drove it 300 miles on a single fuel cell charge emitting only water vapor.

The next step for the technology is to move it into the Chevrolet Equinox, where about more than 100 fuel-cell-only models will be marketed initially in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.

For some, GM's fuel-cell move is a bet-the-farm strategy that insiders hope doesn't end up like the abortive EV-1 all-electric project that the company stamped out after making and leasing about 800 vehicles.

"It's one basket we've put eggs into, but actually our strategy is to displace petroleum," Burns said in an interview before the keynote. He pointed to continuing work on all-electric vehicles (the Chevrolet Volt) and other initiatives.

Burns also sketched out an automotive future in which cars begin to communicate with each other in vehicle to vehicle networks to improve safety and the driving experience.

"Beyond that, it sets up a future in which vehicles can drive themselves," he said.

Because GM engineers take a top-down view on design and must blend mechanical and electrical systems at a high level of abstraction, Burns said car manufacturers are relying on the design automation industry to continue to deliver tools to enable them to design at such levels.

"Math-based tools are very much at the heart of virtual engineering and virtual vehicle development," he said, noting the Sequel was designed from the ground up in 18 months. You truly are on the pathway to making this future happen through the tools you're making."

- Brian Fuller
EE Times

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