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Difference in thinking

Reading patent applications related to autonomous vehicles reveals interesting differences in thinking. On the one hand are the Silicon Valley players which at times seem to reinvent what the car manufacturers and their tier 1 suppliers have already invented years ago. And on the other hand the traditional OEMs are solving problems that the newcomers don’t seem to bother with.

A nice example is Ford’s patent application¬†15/057447. It covers an improved alternator. Because, so Ford’s thinking, autonomous vehicles will have more electric consumers, they need an improved alternator attached to the internal combustion engine. Makes sense. But somehow I suspect that the Silicon Valley players have already concluded that autonomous vehicles will also be electric vehicles. Which I guess also makes sense, if Tesla is the primary OEM in your front yard.

Here is a quote from the Ford application, emphasis added: “A vehicle may include an alternator for converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. The electrical energy produced by the alternator may be stored in an electrical energy storage device for future consumption or the electrical energy may be consumed by electrically powered devices as the electrical energy is produced. Recently, electrical loads within the vehicle have increased and are expected to increase further as autonomous vehicles are put into production. For example, some vehicles include electrically assisted steering and electrically driven climate control systems. Autonomous vehicles may include object and distance observing sensors as well as enhanced communications systems and actuators to position, stop, and accelerate the vehicle. The electrical loads may increase well beyond that which a medium duty alternator may provide. Further, a speed of an engine driving the alternator may vary such that the engine drives the alternator at speeds where the alternator operates less efficient than may be desired. Consequently, the alternator electrical output may be at times insufficient to supply the electrical load unless the alternator is sized large. However, increasing the alternator size may increase vehicle mass, thereby decreasing vehicle fuel efficiency. As such, it would be desirable to provide an alternator that has high output capacity with a reduced mass.”