The show must go on
Using our own technology to get concept and show cars ready for the stage
For motor shows, fairs or exhibitions - show cars simply have to look good.
At major shows, the general idea is that the highlights will include a (usually non-functioning) prototype to give an impression of the innovations the leading vehicle manufacturers have in store. In the past, most concept cars really were fakes: "dead" vehicles or shells that were displayed for people to look at and admire.
On account of recent advances in vehicle technology and growing demands with regard to design and function, concept cars have become more and more "alive" in the past few years. Today, it is not just the paint that shines. New interior concepts, electrically operated vehicle components, complex cockpit instrumentation, vehicle controls, interior lighting and above all impressive headlights like those in the recent BMW Vision Future Luxury all show how important and distinctive the living details of a vehicle can be. And how strong the influence of such concepts can be on the show aspect of a concept car: after all, the car is designed to catch the eye and impress trade visitors and the press alike.
Do-it-yourself tools are not the solution
The great challenge for vehicle manufacturers and developers here is the technical implementation, because concept cars are, of course, not production vehicles - some of the technical details still only exist at simulation level or on paper, and start of production is generally a long way off. The individual design of these elements is often complex and too expensive. And there are no standard solutions for concepts that often resemble something from science fiction - they are, after all, nothing more than concepts. To help themselves, engineers often had to resort to do-it-yourself tools. Complex lighting concepts, for instance, are still often programmed on a commercially available platform called Arduino, a controller which, with its open software and hardware architecture, is suitable for practically any gadget, and is popular for use in electronic experiments carried out at home, such as light-sensitive remote controls or video effects.
More than ever, Showcars today must be reliable
It is hardly surprising that EDAG was not overjoyed at having to resort to DIY technology on the computer to produce important innovations for the major car manufacturers. It is, after all, not just a case of having to satisfy the high standards with the manufacturers' ideas: we also have our own high standards when it comes to technical implementation. Particularly as there is often a snag with the solutions available on the market: they are neither stable nor advanced enough to withstand the tour plan of a concept car. A concept car is often in use for up to three years, and is moved from exhibition to exhibition during this period - the technology used must therefore be easy to configure, durable and error-free. After all, it really wouldn't do at all for the lights to fail during an important press conference. Requirements which the Arduino platform, for instance, can only seldom meet, due to the fact that it is intended for experimental purposes and not for continuous use.
A fully connected modular system could be the answer
As EDAG constantly strives for improvement, the engineers quickly developed their own solution: a fully connected modular system for use in concept cars, which helps to bring a concept's lights and controls to life when it is being exhibited. What is special about this solution is that, unlike standard, simple control units, there is a separate, freely programmable module for every function. These modules make it possible to address the powertrain, exterior or interior lighting separately and connect them via CAN - almost as though the solutions needed for a show car are selected from a construction kit, and then put together as required. And with the EDAG system, there is no need to re-programme everything each time. The specially developed software expands with each new concept car, to create a large performance library for the perfect presentation. The list of stars who have so far utilised the development team's modular system speaks for itself. The system is not only in use in Connected Drive Vision but also in many other showcars of different manufacturers. It's causing something of a sensation in these concept cars not least because of the EDAG controls.
Incidentally, the fact that these vehicles can be relied upon to master the next 3-year press and promotional tour is all down to one minor detail that EDAG applied first: unlike open systems using DIY items, the fully connected modular system uses components suitable for automotive purposes, and these are housed in a stable case.