Kettering hosts test run of Delphi prototype being unveiled at 2019 Consumer Electronics Show

FLINT, Michigan — In a few months, the rest of the world will get a peek at technology that will lower vehicle emissions, improve performance and be increasingly important as the world moves closer to driverless automation.

This is Intelligent Drive.

It will be presented at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, but this week — it’s at Kettering University.
Mary Gustanski, a 1985 Kettering alum and now senior vice president and chief technology officer for Delphi Technologies, gave a demo at a special event at Kettering University’s recently completed proving grounds and research center. As an original equipment Manufacturer, Delphi “has to think about what has to be sold tomorrow,” she said. 

“Yes, everyone is developing automation and self-driving technology of the future, but there’s still a lot of debate about how to do that. In the meantime, you have to get vehicles on the road. That means providing for what the consumers needs are: What they want is functionality, range and low emission — but also that ‘wow factor,’” Gustanski explains. 

“It’s one more thing that we can give to the consumer and say, ‘We have all these features and functionality, and it will be better for your money, your drive and the environment,’ ” she said.  

Intelligent Drive is the use of controls to converge of performance, range and emission factors over a market that’s still dominated by combustion engines. It’s a space that is broadening because of innovation in powertrain propulsion, electric-hybrid and internet-to-cloud connectivity. 

Bottom line: That means when this technology is implemented, car buyers can anticipate cleaner emissions, better performance, and further driving distances. “We’re doing this because as we move from hybrid to full electric, there may be this consumer concern that you may not get as much range or performance. Well, with Intelligent Drive, this will help you drive further or connect you to where all the charging stations are,” Gustanski says. “And, this technology is ready today, before we get to this fully automated world.” 

Delphi Technologies was the first company to make use of Kettering’s Mobility Research Center. The unique test track and proving ground allowed workers from Delphi’s Auburn Hills offices to test its prototype locally. 

Related story: See inside Kettering University's new proving grounds and research center

“The Mobility Research Center has been ideal. It’s close by and they really designed it for automated systems like ours,” said Keith Confer, engineering manager of Advanced Vehicle Systems for Delphi Technologies. “It’s designed specifically for what we’re testing here, and working with students both at the company and on campus is great for the future development of the this technology.”  

Out on the track, Gustanski gives another example of Intelligent Drive: 

“Imagine as you’re driving along that you don’t know where the next speed change is. More than  likely (you won’t see) a speed change until you’re on top of it,” she says. “So there is a tendency to go 45 mph and then it’ll change to 35 mph. Then when you hit the brake, well, you’ve lost energy there. 

“Or maybe there is a curve coming up, like on the test track, and you’ll hit the brake along that curve, but Intelligent Drive will know where the speed change is and will coast down or adjust to a constant speed when it hits the curve.” 

Ultimately Intelligent Drive compensates for human reaction time and saves energy by ensuring use of a more constant speed, Gustanski says.

The test car, a 2016 Volkswagen Passat, was developed in conjunction with Ohio State University and Kettering University. Getting behind the wheel and initiating the Intelligent Drive system, the car takes off and drives a bit faster than anticipated, but there is a smooth transition from acceleration to coming to a complete stop. “As things get more electrified, we’re taking a lot of information that is now available to the vehicle and sensors and connectivity to the cloud. While  a lot companies are looking towards full automation, we are more focused on the propulsion space,” says James Jeffers, Delphi’s director of advanced technologies. “We’re working to take all that information that is available, like road conditions, when stop lights change and speed changes to optimize how a vehicle uses that energy and fuel economy.” 

The team at the test course on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, described the work as finding the best balance between performance whether with a combustion engine, hybrid or electric. It’s  about improving performance and range while adjusting to an individual driver’s preferences. According to the company, with Intelligent Drive enabled, just by utilizing data available on board most cars, there can be a savings of up to 10 percent fuel economy.

“We want to expand in this space of propulsion, better range and fuel economy while these other companies work towards automation, so that we can marry those elements by design as this technology moves forward,” Jeffers said. This technology can be seen “as a layer that adds benefits to the market and as stepping stone to the future,” says Confer, noting that some of these prototype elements will be ready to bring to the market in four to five years.

“What I like about it, we’re putting a lot of sensors into these vehicles for safety and convenience and that is important as we move closer to autonomy, but in most cars the propulsion system is still hiding under the hood,” he says. “It doesn’t have that information coming in. It only knows what you’re right foot is telling it to do. Those sensors that are on-board our vehicles we’re working with here can be used for the benefit of the propulsion system. … It can plan for stops and changes in your environment.”

Read more articles by Jake Carah.

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