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Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(03):S4-S9. doi:10.1115/1.2013-MAR-4.
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This article introduces opportunities that are seen at the intersection of electrification, connectivity, and smart controls in the automobile industry. Computational Intelligence provides the vehicle the ability to reason, adapt, and learn based on historical usage data, the present operating conditions, and the predicted future states. Modern automobiles continue to grow in complexity and sophistication. Electrified powertrains now provide vastly improved fuel efficiency by utilizing high-voltage systems to overcome some of the shortcomings of traditional combustion engines. Smart controls have enabled a wealth of new vehicle features ranging from automatic climate control to vehicle dynamic control. Vehicle connectivity, having already empowered the driver through infotainment and telematics, now promises new computing resources and information that can be leveraged directly for improved vehicle performance. At the intersection of these three vehicle mega trends lies a field that is rich for development. In the future, drivers will benefit in everything from enhanced drivability to more durable vehicles.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(03):S10-S17. doi:10.1115/1.2013-MAR-5.
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This article reviews the past successes and future challenges of model-based approaches for the analysis, design, and control of hybrid vehicles. Hybrid and electrified vehicles have demonstrated significant fuel economy improvement, especially for city driving, and are gaining market acceptance. The success of hybrid vehicles in Japan demonstrates the potential for hybrid vehicles in other urban markets with high fuel prices, such as large cities in Europe and Asia. Hybrid vehicles are generally classified according to their powertrain architecture. The electric grid and the transportation system are the two largest sectors that produce greenhouse gas emissions. When large numbers of vehicles are electrified and draw power from the electric grid, it is important to aim for reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions, rather than just shifting emissions from tailpipes to power plant stacks. The article concludes that the design, modeling, and control of hybrid vehicles is a subject rich in research opportunities for the dynamic systems and control community.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(03):S18-S24. doi:10.1115/1.2013-MAR-6.
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This article presents an automotive control approach for information-rich future mobility. It integrates in-vehicle networked controls with cloud computing accessible through a wireless network to elevate current on-board controls to a new level for additional benefits and performance. Outsourcing computation-intensive tasks to a cloud-computing server is an extension of the current server-based concierge/infotainment type features. While in-vehicle controls remain essential for safety critical and real-time functionality, the cloud-computing paradigm offers another degree of freedom for control system design. In future vehicle controls, the cloud can be used for very demanding computations that otherwise cannot be accomplished by on-board electronic control units (ECUs), especially for information-intensive tasks. The so-called local-simple-remote-complex vehicle control strategies are likely to unlock the potential of implementing methods and tools that are presently used only in an off-line setting. The cloud can also be used as a storage place to record current and historic vehicle data that can be used for predictive diagnosis and prognostics of the vehicle health.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(03):33-37. doi:10.1115/1.2013-MAR-1.
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This article discusses various aspects of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. CSP system ensures that more solar energy reaches the earth in one hour than the combined worldwide consumption of energy by human activities in one year. The article also focuses on various challenges posed by the CSP systems as alternative energy sources. Some CSP systems focus sunlight onto a line, where tubes contain a working fluid, such as synthetic oil, which is heated and pumped to heat exchangers to produce high-pressure steam. These systems are oriented north–south and track on a single axis from east to west over the course of a day. Technological improvements have been made in nearly all the sub-components of CSP systems over the past few years. Research efforts include developing novel materials and heat-transfer fluids, designing receivers that can achieve high temperatures, and building higher efficiency heat collectors. The study shows that nearly every part of the CSP system presents rich opportunities for mechanical engineers to contribute their expertise. In particular, the challenging SunShot Initiative goals call for innovations and ingenious system designs to drive costs down, while improving efficiencies.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(03):38-41. doi:10.1115/1.2013-MAR-2.
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This article discusses the application of product life-cycle management (PLM) concepts in all types of manufacturing industries. PLM can handle product complexity whether a company designs a few items with many parts or a number of products that need to be localized to many communities around the globe. Fashion-driven industries are using PLM systems in new, idiosyncratic ways, and that means that they cannot simply purchase and implement an existing system the way an engineering company can. In fashion, PLM is used to keep abreast of trends and consolidate designs and inspirations. A study shows that the retail and apparel industries aren’t nearly as focused on product development as engineering companies are. For engineers, PLM is a way to centralize and to focus on product development and innovation. In retail and apparel, PLM is used to manage the supply chain more than product development.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(03):42-47. doi:10.1115/1.2013-MAR-3.
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This article provides an overview of various successful tips and considerations that could result in a winning interview for a mechanical engineer. A winning interview is one that allows you to find out if the position and potential employer are really right for you. It is also one that allows the potential employer to determine if you are the best candidate for the position, and if you will fit into the employer’s team, now and in the future. One of the self-diagnostic tools is called ‘SWOT Analysis,’ in which ‘SWOT’ stands for ‘strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.’ Strengths and weaknesses focus on you. Opportunities and threats are directed away from you toward the organization and the environment in which it operates. Opportunities and threats are both external and internal to the organization. Learning about them requires some intelligence gathering. Besides noting the opportunities that you foresee for the employer, you should develop a strategy for overcoming the threats. Being open and direct in your questioning and observations during the interview will show your level of confidence and the effort you have made.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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