Ongoing (newer) Chrysler technological innovations

Leapfrogging Aluminum by Using Magnesium

FCA US is working on a better way to join magnesium to steel and to aluminum, fusing an expensive lightweight-yet-strong metal to  aluminum and to steel. Steel is strong and relatively cheap; aluminum is light and somewhat pricey. Normally, joining dissimilar metals together can result in corrosion, seizure, or other problems, especially as they expand at different rates when heated.

Magnesium joined to steel or aluminum

Chrysler’s current work was revealed in a presentation to the Department of Energy, where they called their method “Upset Protrusion Joining.” (Thanks, patromigh). One problem of using magnesium, other than cost, is how hard it is to extinguish magnesium fires.  (Thanks, Bob Lincoln.)  

Smaller-head patent

A recently granted patent (applied for back in 2011 by Chrysler’s Richard H. Sands and Alan G. Falkowski) can cut Chrysler’s costs and reduce the size of their engines, helping the company to either fit larger engines into their cars, or to lower their hoods.

patent for heads

The patent applies to in-line and V-engines alike, which means it could be used for the upcoming Hurricane turbocharged four-cylinder; but the drawings and a specific size example are taken from a V6 engine, presumably the PUG (Pentastar Upgrade).

According to the patent description, the new setup would integrate valve controls into the head, rather than having them sit on the outside with a separate cover; passages inside the head would provide access to the valves. This would save space and reduce cost. Thanks, Steven St. Laurent.

Parking pawls

Many people never use their parking / emergency brakes, which can put a great deal of pressure on the little parking pawl, a part of the automatic transmission which holds all three to five thousand pounds of a modern car, truck, or SUV.

parking pawl 

One approach to the problem is using electrically operated, electronically controlled, automatic parking brakes. Electric parking brakes work automatically, so people who don’t normally use the parking brakes have no choice. They also fix the problem of owners who don’t apply the brake enough to actually stop the car from moving (especially with hand-operated parking brakes, and any manually adjusted parking brakes that are neglected by owners and dealers alike). This relieves pressure on the parking pawl, and cuts the admittedly remote chance of the car moving on a steep hill.

A new approach from a Chrysler patent goes after the problem of over-working the parking pawl differently. It uses the computer to calibrate the transmission’s parking lock, using computer-controlled actuators that figure out exactly how far the pawl can be pushed in, so it’s fully engaged. The full system is described here. (Thanks, WhiteRhino07).

Apps

Chrysler apps

The industry’s first smartphone vehicle-information app includes operation tips, maintenance and warranty information, product-feature videos, connections to Chrysler social media sites, and access to customer care and 24-hour road-side assistance. It started with the 2011 Grand Cherokee and will go to other vehicles; the first app was for the iPhone but there will be BlackBerry and Android versions for the US. The app was programmed through Tweddle Group. Existing user guides and DVDs will continue to be included.

User configurable dashboards and instrument panels

Alex Petersen wrote about a March 2009 patent application (12/414,723), issued in October 2009:

Basically you would have 4-5 displays that are totally configurable. The displays will handle a wide variety of things such as color themes and skins, stereo options, personal photos, music and video libraries, and navigation; they even refer to Internet browsers. All of these options are accessed through a central multi-touch display.

One can select a secondary display to change, for instance the instrument cluster area, then flip through a series of customization options, and apply the new theme by sliding one's finger towards that area of the vehicle. Another instance the describer is if the user wants the navigation screen to move from the center stack to the passenger display. Simply use a preset finger command and gesture or slide your finger towards the passenger display. The navigation map will then move accordingly. There are a whole lot of scenarios described in the abstract and I hope you decide to read it for yourself to draw your own conclusions. Could this be the 200c interior?

Electric steering

The new, all-electric steering system uses a normal rack and pinion unit and steering shaft connection. Now, though, there is a steering position sensor on the rack and a full electric motor on the passenger side of the rack that provides the steering assist. It has no belt driven or electric power steering pump.

2009 introductions

  • Decel system: cuts fuel on deceleration.
  • Bring your own Internet! Your car will supply the wi-fi if you supply the devices. Coming in 2008-09; to be factory installed, but will start out as a Mopar accessory.
  • All wheel drive for rear-wheel-drive cars that disconnects the front wheel drive when not needed, thereby providing gas mileage similar to rear wheel drive (around 1-2 mpg savings). When AWD is needed, the computer will speed up the front transfer case, using an electric motor, then connect it, sending up to 38% of power to the front wheels. See active disconnecting AWD.
  • Blind spot monitoring for minivans
  • Rear cross path alarm for cases when a car is passing by as the owner is backing up
  • These and more are in our 2009 Chrysler technologies page.

Dual-engine systems and multiple displacement

This patent suggests mounting some pistons to one crankshaft and other pistons to a second crankshaft, with the two crankshafts coupled by a fluid coupling device such as a torque converter. Only one cylinder bank is connected to the transmission; the other is connected to the first bank, and is used to provide additional torque when needed. Thus, it can be fuel efficient under normal conditions, while providing extra torque for acceleration, heavy loads, or steep hills. It may be easier and cheaper to produce than the current Hemi variable-displacement system. (Inventor: James Wylin, Waterford, MI).

Patent 7,017,339 covers a dual crankshaft engine system with two engines (this seems to be an ongoing project, see earlier patents). George Konstantakopoulos and Donald Anderson set up the exhausts to be common to the two engines, with three catalytic converters. This makes one wonder about the MDS on the Phoenix.

Patent 6,568,365 (May 2003, Mark Hannon, Arthur Spohn, James Klotz) shows another step in the creation of the variable-displacement Hemi, a "pulse drive valve deactivator" that can be used to control valve actuation on either a pushrod or overhead cam engine.

Variable valve timing / lift

The Phoenix engines are coming, and new ways to control valve timing are probably going to be a big issue. Patent 7,228,833, assinged to James R. Klotz, is for a new system with a rocker arm and an actuator link, with the actuator link in constant driving engagement with the rocker arm and a camshaft. A rocker shaft is positioned in the head, with a rotational axis perpendicular to a rotational axis of the camshaft. This would provide for variable valve lift.

Patent 6,584,943, issued in 2003, covers variable lift intake valves in pushrod and overhead cam engines by James R. Klotz. In addition, patent application 568630 (2000) from Douglas Stander, Sam Liu, Min Sway-Tin, and William Robinson covers a new way to set up air-fuel ratios, rather than using painfully derived lookup charts - basing them on a neural network, using various sensor readings and internal logic to come up with the ideal fuel to air mixture.

Hybrids

The hybrids are also coming; numerous Michigan inventors have patented a hybrid vehicle whose starter/motor/generator is coupled to a high voltage battery pack via an inverter and to a deployable power output panel for external loads. A control unit automatically places the vehicle in PARK, or activates an electrical parking brake system to hold the vehicle stationary, when external power is used. (Patent assigned to DCX, Auburn Hills.) Another group of Michigan folk also patented a fuel cell design.

Hybrid battery voltage control - This patent covers intelligent battery voltage regulation for hybrid vehicles.

Other recent patents

Mitchell Puskarz, of Chrysler, patented a new way to test cars for wind-noise, apparently by adding exterior components one at a time, with various types of analysis being performed each time.

Integrated step for a vehicle cargo area - easier access to pickup beds? Nice idea. Russell Fielding, February 22, 2005

Semicircular battery - for storage in the spare tire compartment where things are nice and quiet and cool. Thomas Rowley, Geoffrey Bossio, Michelle Fecteau, Jon Rasbach, February 15, 2005

Two stage shock absorber mount - using both a compression mount and a shear mount, the latter to absorb low-input vertical loads, and the former to limit bouncing and absorb medium-input vertical loads. There's one way around a tradeoff. Mark F Jacoby, Kelly J. Reynolds, James M. Stevens, Timothy S. O'Bryan, Phillip C. Boss, May 2003.

Changing station - Hey, we've been waiting for this one - a fold-out diaper changing table contained in a bucket seat. We've done a lot of car diaper changes...Francis Wojcik, March 1, 2005 ... this seems to have gone nowhere, though, unless it’s going to a surprise option on the Journey.

Automatic starting and stopping? This patent covers a set up controls to automatically stop an engine when it's warm and not needed, and then to start it back up again on demand. This is already done for manual-transmission Opels and Vauxhalls to save fuel; the Chrysler patent appears to cover automatic transmissions. Shutting the engine while coasting would conserve energy, but some patent language indicates that the goal is to shut a hybrid-electric's engine at traffic lights and such.

Recycleability. Chrysler has patented what appears to be a database link to aid designers in optimizing the ability to recycle larger portions of cars when they are no longer needed.

Richard Henry filed a patent for a two-piece capless fuel-filling device to prevent people from getting dirt on the cap when putting it down, and from getting fuel on their hands or clothing. The patent includes a system installation, since competing devices are not easily installed during assembly.

John Cathcart and James Salmonowicz patented an exhaust system which is tuned to reduce low frequency exhaust noise by coupling two conduits in a V-type engine into a common chamber, so that pressure pulses cancel each other out.

Diagnostics and customization

Richard Radu, Robert Nakee, William Eichbrecht, Leon Cribbins, Joseph Kopera, and George Mitchell got together for an oxygen sensor filter which, by recording an average oxygen sensor value and then comparing individual readings to that value, can detect if an oxygen sensor is going off course. It collects the number of greater than average and lower than average readings and by looking at a large number of these, can see whether the oxygen sensor is starting to read lower or higher than it used to. Given the importance of the oxygen sensor and the problems of measuring its output correctly (currently, by comparing it with a second oxygen sensor which may be inaccurate itself!), this is a promising technology that could save gas, increase power, and reduce emissions.

Long ago (around 1990), this site's webmaster wrote to Chrysler and suggested that owners be able to connect to their cars via laptop and adjust things like shift points and default behaviors. The Grand Cherokee brought customization to a new level, allowing owners to easily set preferences such as whether the horn honked on locking and the doors locked at a certain speed. Patent application 152968 by Kevin Schwanz, David Pruett, and Tracey Stanyer covers a means of accessing the computer via a standard serial interface to retrieve information and change settings. It is currently set up to use an RS-232 port.

Chrysler is hard at work on ensuring that any problems that due crop up are immediately brought to the attention of the driver or at least the engine computer (it is worth noting that Chrysler has used, from their very first computer-controlled fuel injected engines to current models, a system which lets ordinary people access error codes):

  • (2002) diagnosing a solenoid circuit to determine if the circuit has begun to degrade.
  • Patent 6,564,173 (2003, Robert Arntz and Pawel Golab): diagnosing electrical failures of remotely driven inductive loads and of "electrical connections between a controller and a remotely located power module. Diagnostic information is mixed or intermodulated onto the connection line for a control signal..."
  • 6,530,265 (2003, Dawson, Blomquist, Booms, and Kanafani): detecting strength of a leak in an evaporative emission control system.
  • Chrysler is probably the only automaker making it easy for customers to retrieve their own computer diagnostic codes.

Convenience

Scott Duncan, Richard Zielesch, and Glenn Syrowik developed a tilt steering wheel which can be moved horizontally as well as vertically. (6,640,661, December 2001). Related in concept but not in practice is William Jolley's steering column tilt system multiplier which reduces the amount of force needed to release the column (6,637,285, December 2001).

Sidegate: Dan Minick pointed out that this name was trademarked for "door in pickup bed giving bed access." A recent Chrysler patent shows a minivan-style sliding door integrated into the side of a pickup, indicating that the sidegate is a sliding rear door integrated into the cab. We're still waiting for it to show up.

Gregory Yezersky and Gerald Cilibraise (6,513,193, 2003) have come up with a clever "multiple-detente" system which allows car doors to be held open at any position, rather than the usual 2/3 and fully open, by using a checkstrap assembly and wedging device. This should make everyday auto use much more convenient.

Transmissions

Edward Czarnecki and Howard Benford developed a method of controlling an automatic transmission while cruise control is on, which measures the torque of the engine, predicts maximum torque at the current and in a second gear, and then decides whether to shift gears based on the torque being produced and the potential torque in the other gear. (6,609,056, August 2003) A similar device was patented in 2002 (see transmission section).

(Variable line pressure transmission moved)

An April 26, 2000 patent covers a way to display both the current gear and the position of the stick. Likewise, May 2003 patent 6,569,058 describes a new, improved gearshift which is much simpler in design (hence cheaper and more reliable).

Patent 6,609,056, by Ed Czarnecki and Howard Benford (2002), is designed to help avoid automatic transmission gear hunting by matching engine output torque to torque needed for keeping the same speed after upshifting in the new gear.

Chrysler designed an automatically operated manual transmission for trucks and minivans. These have been tried before, but never with this degree of sophistication and cleverness. This transmission was close to production, but our sources say it has fallen victim to Stuttgart, which objected to the cost; it has not re-surfaced, apparently failing to beat the eight-speed automatic in cost/benefit.

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