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05 January 2014

Basavaraj Garadi on IT education and automotive engineering

How auto enthusiasts can leverage an IT education to excel in the automotive engineering space. In today's engineering era, IT and core engineering complement one another

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Engineering education - landscape in India and future projections

Education is a billion dollar business in India, especially when it comes to engineering. According to the All India Council for Technical Education, India produced 401,791 engineers in 2003-04, 35 per cent being computer engineers. In 2004-05, the number of engineering graduates increased to 464,743, of which 31 per cent were computer engineers. In contrast, the United States produces only 70,000 engineering graduates every year. All of Europe produces just 100,000.

Today, companies in India are working together to ensure up-to-date, relevant engineering curriculum in the country to help students to be skilled on par with global standards.  Bosch is partnering with the Government of Karnataka for an initiative “Train the Master Trainers”, where teaching faculty from engineering and polytechnic colleges are trained in current automotive technologies concepts and trends.  

The importance of core engineering to the economy

Core engineering is an integral part of economic growth for any country. Although Indian companies have been able to build vehicles, critical components for the vehicles such as high-end engines, Electronic Control Unit, sensors, are either imported or sourced from multinational companies operating out of India. There are many instances of high end components manufactured locally but often they incur heavy license fees. This affects the final cost of the product and increases trade deficits.

It also affects the GDP, currency value and the inflation rate. Hence, it is important that Indian engineers gain competency in core engineering to be self reliant in realising complex engineering projects using local man power, technology and materials.  

IT engineers need to develop skillsets in core engineering to be relevant in the future

IT engineers write software code to solve real world problems.  The software they build may run on desktop computers or on onboard computers (also referred to as Electronic Control Units). They deal with real world data and signals; and interpret, analyse and process these to realise complex functions. For these functions to be effective, efficient, accurate, repeatable and reliable, IT engineers have to apply mathematical, scientific and technological skills. They need the ability to solve engineering problems and design systems through creative and innovative thinking. They need sound theoretical approach for introduction of new ideas and concepts. All of these amount to core engineering skills.

IT engineers, in order to contribute fully to what they are working on, should be in a position to understand, visualise and appreciate the engineering principles. For example, engineers engaged in developing software for the vehicle exhaust management should be able to understand the principles behind chemical processes, fluid dynamics, thermal engineering, etc. Likewise, engineers writing software for the engine management systems would do well to have basic engineering skills associated with combustion, kinetics, kinematics and traction.

Opportunities at the confluence of core engineering and IT

Software  is increasingly the key differentiator in products. New technologies such as hybrid vehicles, increasing emphasis on driver safety and security, increasing demand for comfort and convenience, and government norms on emissions together are driving increased spending on engineering in the automotive domain. Availability of good IT facilities such as tools for Computer Aided Design, modelling tools, embedded software development and debugging tools, automated test setups and computer based vehicle simulators can help in a big way in improving the productivity, thus optimising the development costs for new vehicles.

Modern automotive industry also demands specialised skills like CAE/CAD/CAA – computer aided engineering/design/analysis. CAE tools which enable engineers to use software could also be used for various engineering tasks. CAE tools are extensively used in automotive industry to analyse the robustness and performance of components and assemblies by means of simulating, validating and optimising the components using computer software.  

There are new areas emerging within the automotive sector which calls for increased IT knowhow and infrastructure. For example, public authorities are interested in improved traffic data exchange for better traffic management in urban areas. This calls for aggregation of vehicle data such as location, speed etc through multiple channels, both public and private services. Governments in many states in India are introducing Intelligent Transport System which provides accurate and real time information on public transport services.

The vehicle information collected for implementing such services can be further extended to remind the vehicle user of impending service, diagnostics during vehicle breakdown, driver profiling and so on. Good IT infrastructure and application setup are essential to their implementation. It is important here for people working in IT to have a good understanding of the automotive domain, and an understanding of various protocols to communicate with the vehicles; at the same time it is important for the automotive engineer to have good understanding of the possibilities in IT to exploit their full potential.

(Written by Mr Basavaraj Garadi, Chief Expert, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions with inputs from Mr. Vasantha Kumar Narayan, Chief Expert, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions)

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