Mechatronics and the Future of the Auto Industry
By Todd Dills
(This article originally appeared in UAB Magazine.)
Alabama has become an unlikely leader in the automotive industry, with manufacturing plants from Mercedes, Honda, and Hyundai producing the latest SUVs, minivans, and sedans. Meanwhile, at the UAB School of Engineering, Vladimir Vantsevich, Ph.D., Sc.D., and his students are working on the next generation of vehicles.
Vantsevich is the leading specialist worldwide in the dynamics, energy efficiency, and mobility of both conventional and unmanned multi-wheel drive vehicles. His work is based in an engineering discipline called mechatronics, a combination of electronic and mechanical systems that he describes as “a technology, a philosophy, and a science” all rolled into one. The automotive industry is a primary adopter of mechatronic systems, Vantsevich explains. Electronically controlled braking systems are one example; another is adaptive cruise control, which deploys radar and electronic controls to automatically adjust vehicle speed in order to maintain a safe following distance.
But these high-tech devices come at a cost. “The average car today has about two kilometers of wires” inside and may have up to five computers, Vantsevich says. That adds more than 60 pounds, “and you have to burn more fuel to carry that weight.”
More than 300 people attended the third annual Sustainable Smart Cities Symposium on Thursday, hearing from a wide range of speakers about the latest in urban sustainability and development.
This year's symposium, presented by the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, featured an international panel of speakers, including keynote speaker Barbara McCann, director of the Office of Safety, Energy & Environment for the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. In her address on "Complete Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks," McCann explained how a sustained commitment can lead to safer neighborhoods and improved opportunities for economic development. "It is a simple commitment in the beginning, but it can be much harder to actually implement those plans and sustain progress," McCann said. "But when you get that broad commitment on various levels, these communities will begin to transform, and they begin to measure success in different ways."
The symposium began with welcomes from UAB Provost Linda Lucas, Ph.D. and Birmingham Mayor William Bell. "I am proud of the fact that the city of Birmingham is taking an active role in this process to work with you to come up with best practices to improve our quality of life," said Bell. "It makes no difference how much research you do unless you can apply it to practical, everyday living. It is my responsibility to take the research you come up with and integrate it seamlessly into the planning arena within the city so you will have sustainable projects going on every day."
Barry Andrews Retires after 38 Years at UAB
|At top, Barry Andrews (left) is seen with current dean Iwan Alexander at a reception in Andrews' honor. At bottom, Andrews (right) is pictured with Jim Woodward, the school's second dean, in a 1981 photo provided by UAB Archives.|
Barry Andrews came home to UAB in 1976, and for the next 38 years he was content to stay there; but just because he was home, that's not to say he was idle.
With more than 40 total years as a student and faculty member in the School of Engineering, Andrews retired as chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the beginning of this month, capping a distinguished career that spans almost the entire history of UAB.
"It is unusual for a school to keep a faculty member for that length of time, particularly when the faculty member is as accomplished and respected in his field as Barry Andrews," says School of Engineering Dean Iwan Alexander, Ph.D. "I first met Barry when I was working in Huntsville and he was working on research with NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center. When I came to UAB years later as dean, it was a big advantage for me to have someone with the history and institutional knowledge that he has."
Vaidya Named Chair of Department of Materials Science and Engineering