What Is Automotive Engineering?

Cars have become necessities nowadays that many people don’t even take notice of the intricate mechanisms that make these cars run on the road, accelerate or brake when necessary and turn in the directions that the driver wishes with just a nudge of the steering wheel. What is even more exciting these days is the concept of self-driving cars that has now turned to reality, even if it is still currently in its development and testing stages. These are the things that the marvelous world of automotive engineering is concerned about.

Automotive engineering is a branch of engineering that focuses on vehicles that run on the ground like cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses. The field studies the design, production and manufacturing and operations of these vehicles as well as the unique engineering subsystems that power them. This field of engineering combines the different facets of mechanical, electrical, electronic, safety and software engineering.

While a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering may be sufficient for entry-level posts in the automotive industry, further educational training specifically in automotive engineering will make one an automotive engineer. Cars and automotives have a world of their own and thus needs to be studied in more detail. For example, the University of Michigan offers the Master of Engineering in Automotive Engineering. Some of the topics covered include internal combustion engines, automatic transmissions, hybrid electric vehicles, automotive engineering, vehicle dynamics, power electronics, embedded control systems and electric machinery and drives. Students also learn about automotive human factors, human motor behavior and engineering systems and quality engineering principles and analysis, among others.

Safety engineering is one of the important principles in automotive engineering. This involves projecting different crash scenarios and understanding how it will affect the passengers of the vehicle. Automotive engineers have to ensure that a car’s safety features like its seatbelt and airbag will function as it should. These tests can be carried out through a crash simulation using computers, the use of crash test dummies or the actual crashing of a vehicle.

Automotive engineering is also concerned about fuel economy which basically tells the efficiency of the amount of fuel consumed by the vehicle when compared with the distance traveled. Countries like the United States set fuel economy requirements due to various reasons. One of these is because the fuel consumption of vehicles contributes largely to air pollution levels. Needless to say, automotive engineering strives to make vehicles more fuel efficient. Closely related to fuel economy is that of vehicle emissions. The noxious gases that are emitted by vehicles also pollute the environment and as such, vehicles must be able to pass emissions testing standards to ensure that they don’t harm the environment. Automotive engineers develop new technologies that lessen a car’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Electronic systems have become part and parcel of the controls of modern vehicles. From the brakes to the steering to the lighting systems, new cars are now electronically controlled. As such, automotive electronics play an important role in meeting the safety standards established for modern vehicles. Automotive electronics is a very important subfield of automotive engineering. This field virtually encompasses all aspects of a vehicle in addition to those already mentioned. Automotive engineers are also concerned with the drivability, performance, shift quality, quality management and cost of designing and making automobiles.

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