Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting schooled for the future: EcoCAR 2 Year 2 Kicks Off!

Guest post from Jin Xu, global education program manager for QNX Software Systems

Jin Xu
Back in July, my colleague Romain Saha wrote about QNX Software Systems' role in EcoCar 2, a three-year competition established by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors that challenges university teams to redesign the powertrain of a 2013 Chevy Malibu. To win, teams must reduce the environmental impact of the powertrain without compromising performance, safety, or consumer acceptability — a tall order! Last month, I got to take part in the much-anticipated kickoff to the competition, the Fall Workshop, and learned some interesting things along the way.

Before I delve into the details, allow me to set the stage. Competition to participate in EcoCAR 2 is fierce: out of the 150 universities that applied to compete, only 15 made it through — two of them from Canada. Each year, about 300 students contribute to their respective teams in a range of skillsets, from mechanical and electrical engineering to software development, business management, and community outreach.

Breeding ground
The EcoCAR 2 initiative is part of the DOE's 24-year-old series of advanced vehicle technology competitions, which are a mainstay of the automotive industry and have become a veritable breeding ground for talent. More than 70% of participants will land jobs in the automotive industry and, in a true testament to the competition's "circle of life," many student participants return as organizers and sponsors. The Fall Workshop served as a primer for participants, including training sessions for the donated components and software, including our QNX CAR 2 application platform. Suffice it to say, EcoCAR 2 is a big deal — and we're proud to be a part of it.

Center stack competition
For the first time, competing
teams can create their own

center stack
So what stood out about this year's workshop? For the first time in the competition's history, a reconfigurable center stack is being offered to the competition teams, a nod to how both EcoCar and the larger automotive industry have expanded beyond their mechanical roots. Students have been asked to use Freescale's i.mx6 Sabre ARD board and to choose their preferred software to design the center stack of the future. Each team will have to complete their center stack design by May 2013 to be eligible for the Freescale Innovation Award. A representative from QNX Software Systems will serve as a judge for these awards and will evaluate the designs for look and feel, responsiveness, completeness, and overall innovation.

Center stack platform: The
Freescale i.mx6 Sabre ARD board
On the first day of the workshop, we demonstrated the QNX CAR 2 application platform on the Freescale Sabre board. All 15 teams attended our training session, and we plan to provide them with further training on the platform in early 2013.

EcoCAR comes to SAE Convergence
If you’re in Detroit this week, you’re in luck. EcoCAR will hold remarks in their booth, M15, at SAE Convergence on October 16 from 12:15 to 1 pm ET. The remarks will feature speakers from the DOE and two of the university participants, Ohio State and Wayne State.

I was impressed how just a few days in September could hold so much potential for the future of our industry. It was an honor to take part in the EcoCAR 2 workshop on behalf of QNX Software Systems, and I am excited to see how the students will use the QNX CAR 2 application platform to drive automotive technology forward!

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