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Cadillac: From the Internet to Smarter Struts

To be first to market with a new technology is a challenge in these highly competitive times, but Cadillac claims to have done just that with its 2001 Seville and Deville sedans.This Bose “infotainment” radio will provide Internet functionality in addition to tunes.Both models will offer the first application of an OEM-installed personal computer in a car.

To be first to market with a new technology is a challenge in these highly competitive times, but Cadillac claims to have done just that with its 2001 Seville and Deville sedans.

Bose Radio
This Bose “infotainment” radio will provide Internet functionality in addition to tunes.

Both models will offer the first application of an OEM-installed personal computer in a car. The PC forms the backbone of a suite of web-enabled electronic services in the 2001 Cadillacs. In conjunction with Delphi and Bose, GM has developed what it terms the “infotainment” radio, which provides a host of on- and off-line capabilities by integrating the computer, navigation system, CD-ROM, and radio functions. “There are lots of companies demonstrating web-connected cars,” says Jim Taylor, vehicle line executive for GM’s prestige cars. “But we’re the first to actually do it.”

On top of this, GM’s On-Star system (as installed in Cadillacs and other GM division vehicles) will offer new services next year including personal calling and “Virtual Advisor,” which gives drivers hands-free access to personalized Internet information.

“Motorists spend 500 million hours a week ‘trapped’ in their cars,” says Karenann Terrell, director of e-vehicle product management at e-GM. “We know that they are multi-tasking right now. Our systems will help them take care of business on the commute so their home time is quality time.”

To allay fears that Cadillac drivers will be plowing into other road users while multi-tasking, the system is voice controlled. Also, except for displaying radio station information or turn-by-turn navigation directions, the dashboard screen is disabled unless the vehicle is stopped. Aimed particularly at so-called “early adopters,” the system will allow users to have e-mail read to them and to access the Internet.

Bose Radio
Not overlooking the fact that even Internet-enabled cars still need to drive on real (not virtual) roads, Cadillac is installing a variable road-sensing strut system on the 2002 STS.

There is a lot more to the e-capabilities of next year’s Cadillacs but the division is also stepping up developments in other technology areas, specifically suspension and chassis control. The focus is on the 2002 Cadillac STS, the performance version of Cadillac’s front-wheel-drive luxury flagship. The company claims it will be the first automaker to offer a magnetic-fluid-based variable damping system. “It responds in one millisecond, 10 times faster than systems on the market today,” boasts Cadillac.

Dubbed “Magnaride” (MR), the system was developed by GM and Delphi. It replaces the continuously variable road-sensing strut system currently used by Cadillac. With MR, the damping fluid in the struts contains suspended metal particles. When electric current is applied to coils in the dampers, the orientation of the metal particles is altered and the viscosity of the fluid is rapidly changed. This modifies the damping characteristics. Unlike the present variable-valve system, MR has no moving valve components and therefore offers much faster response time. “The system is pretty simple in concept,” says Jim Taylor, “but there’s an awful lot of science that goes into it.”

Apart from response time, there are several other important advantages to MR. Over rough road surfaces, MR can provide superior handling and control because it can apply a greater magnitude of force over a broad range of damper velocities. It can also minimize damping forces for improved road isolation over smooth surfaces.

On a more fundamental level, MR’s broad range of operation means that the car’s ride control can be managed by using computer algorithms, as opposed to being limited to the mechanical capacities of valve hardware. This, in turn, means that future model changes in terms of handling and ride can be achieved without a major re-design of the vehicle’s chassis and suspension.

“MR is cost effective, quiet and allows for much quicker suspension development time in the future,” adds Taylor.

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