From CES, get a first-hand video look at emerging technologies that are pushing boundaries of innovation in vehicle technology. https://vimeo.com/383851852
What would the electronics industry do if automotive demand were to pull a Thelma and Louise and head off the proverbial cliff?
The auto recovery has been the axle of the Western supply chain since 2008. The drivetrain is starting to show some wear, however, with market followers forecasting nominal growth at best for 2016.
The good news is that electronics content in vehicles continues to increase, rising to 8.9% of the $1.42 trillion worldwide electronic systems market last year, up slightly from 8.6% in 2014. Moreover, forecasts call for the share to continue to rise over the next several years.
Less clear is the extent, if any, the seers account for the potential for widespread ride-sharing trends or — worse for some — outright banning of vehicles.
To wit: Some 27 million Americans alone will use some form of ride-sharing at least once this year, a figure that doesn’t include traditional car-pooling. Urban millennials are growing up without the preconception that vehicle ownership equates to status, an important cultural shift.
A drop in demand for hybrid/electric vehicles (HEV) could also decelerate electronics growth. Hybrid sales alone dropped 15% year-over-year in 2015 — reversing a big gain in 2014 — and bottoming oil prices have kept the market for electric sluggish. Hybrids carry almost twice the electronics content of conventional gas autos, making HEVs a key growth engine for electronics makers.
More disconcerting to the auto supply chain is the prospect of a carless environment. This is actually happening, and in places you wouldn’t necessarily associate with technological backlash. For example:
- Bogota, Colombia, has been car-free on Sundays since 1976, a move that sidelines an estimated 1.5 million vehicles.
- Likewise, Jakarta has sponsored Car Free Day every Sunday since 2007.
- San Francisco shuts certain streets to vehicle traffic on various Sundays throughout the year.
- Oslo plans to ban cars from the city center by 2019.
The electronics supply chain has gotten plenty of mileage from the automotive industry for nearly a decade. It might be time to find a backup plan, however, if the sector wants to keep trucking on.
A failure mode is reemerging that has been responsible for the loss of billions of dollars worth of satellites, missiles and other equipment — the culprit is the electrically conductive entities known as ‘tin whiskers’. Now one research group says that tin whiskers may be responsible for the sudden acceleration in Toyota Camry models from the year 2002 and possibly beyond.
Earlier this year we reported that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) said that Toyota’s problem was not in electronics.
Now, University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering or CALCE researchers have found the potential for tin whiskers in the electronic control module or ECM. Circuits Assembly broke the story, quoting the CALCE report as follows:
“The ECM contains surface mount electronic devices connected with tin-lead solder to a multilayer PCB. … Interconnect terminals of the perimeter leaded devices were found to be plated with tin. In addition, tin plating was found on terminal pins of the edge connections. As previously discussed, tin-finished leads can grow tin whiskers which can lead to unintended electrical shorts.”
“We know whiskers can form on tin finished terminals,” said Michael Osterman, senior research scientist and director of the CALCE Electronic Products and System Consortium. said. “In this case, Toyota has tin plating in a rather sensitive area, where the system relies on changes in resistance to provide a signal for acceleration.”
The studied pedals furthermore have been shown to cause shorts known to spur sudden unintended acceleration.
The odds of tin whiskers: 140/million. Someone known to this blogger recently drove a 2010 Camry and noticed subtle but perceptible decelerations that were not led by the driver. Was it tin whiskering? Hard to say, even CALCE’s study figures that the whiskers would only form in 140 cars per million, which is statistically very significant but als makes it statistically unlikely that my friend’s only Camry experience would be on the wrong side of those odds.
It’s also worth noting that the whisker syndrome is probably not limited to Toyotas. Nonetheless, the spotlight has fallen where it has fallen, and tin whiskers pose a serious problem in that warrants attention.
Tin whiskers. Tin whiskers develop — or may develop — on any product type that uses lead-free pure tin coatings. Thus, in greener, lead-free products, tin whiskers can pose a major safety, reliability and potential liability threats to all makers and users of high reliability electronics and associated hardware. The CALCE brain trust concluded that existing approaches are not sufficient to control tin whiskering in high-reliability systems such as automobile electrical systems.
US Secretary of Transportation said Toyota is “all clear” in February. The official blog of the US Secretary of Transportation on February 8, 2011 stated:
NASA engineers pored over more than 280,000 lines of software code looking for potential flaws that could initiate an unintended acceleration incident. Alongside NHTSA, they bombarded vehicles with electromagnetic radiation to see whether it could make electronics systems cause the cars they control to gain speed.
And today, their verdict is in. There is no electronic cause behind dangerous unintended acceleration incidents in Toyotas.
We will continue to follow this story.