Toyota Brake and Throttle Recalls Expose Urgent Need for Hi-Rel Design in Automotive Electronic Control Systems

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The growing complexity of automobiles is creating an urgent need for Hi-Rel Systems Design, as attested to by the recent safety issues facing Toyota. Hi-Rel is critically important for solutions to design problems such as electronic throttle control, and for more complex problems such as HEV braking and Li-ion battery management. LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc. has created a new business initiative to meet these urgent needs.

The growing complexity of automobiles is creating an urgent need for Hi-Rel Systems Design. Even Toyota, a company renowned for high quality and advanced engineering, is facing issues with some of the most basic functions in their cars - sticking accelerator pedals (or possibly accelerator electronics), and unreliable braking systems. The result, as broadly reported in the press, is that at least 19 people have died, and nearly 8 million Toyota vehicles have been recalled at an estimated $2 billion in cost for the recall and lost sales, not to mention damage to its leading position in brand loyalty.

"LaunchPoint's assessment is that attaining safety and high-reliability in large fleets of vehicles continues to be a tremendous challenge. The challenge is exacerbated by the increasing sophistication of the vehicle electronic systems demanded by consumers. Safety and reliability in electronic systems will become a greater issue as large high-power lithium ion batteries are deployed into the next generation of green cars. These large battery packs contain hundreds of energy-dense cells where each cell must be monitored and controlled. Without ultra 'Hi-Rel' electronics the risks of severe injury and costly failures will be too great. To meet this urgent need, LaunchPoint has established a Hi-Rel business unit," says Brad Paden, CEO of LaunchPoint Technologies Inc., and UC Santa Barbara Professor of Engineering. "Our first action was to recruit Larry Yount as our CTO, a Senior Technical Fellow at Honeywell. Larry is a 30-year veteran of the toughest area in Hi-Rel - commercial aircraft control where a single system fault can cause a catastrophic loss of life."

"While successful automotive Hi-Rel system design is based on the principles learned in aerospace, it must be adapted to the technical problems and cost requirements of commercial automobiles. This has been essential in my work, including working with major automotive manufacturers - safety and reliability are essential, but cost effectiveness is too. I am very pleased to lead the Hi-Rel initiative at LaunchPoint," said Yount.

Yount goes on to say: "Automotive OEMs and suppliers are beginning to recognize the benefits of aerospace thinking in electronic throttle control, or more complex problems such as HEV braking, and Li-ion battery management. And, if the US wants to be a major player in Li-ion batteries for electrified vehicles, it must recognize that there are major safety and reliability problems that chemistry alone cannot solve - we need Hi-Rel systems-level solutions. The US aerospace industry spent decades evolving the solutions to similarly complex problems, and this area of knowledge is still a very rare commodity."

While at Honeywell, Larry proved himself as chief system architect in the design of numerous fly-by-wire control systems, including contributions to the Boeing 787. Mr. Yount has numerous patents addressing the various aspects of Hi-Rel system design, and more than a dozen peer-reviewed technical publications. His current interest is in applying his talents to lithium-ion battery safety, reliability and product value.

About LaunchPoint Technologies

LaunchPoint Technologies, Inc. is headquartered in Santa Barbara, with offices in Phoenix and Pittsburgh. It was founded in 1992, and is a venture engineering firm specializing in the development of new technology and new technology businesses. It is involved in electromechanical systems in energy, aerospace and medicine. LaunchPoint has electronic, mechanical, and chemistry laboratories, as well as fabrication facilities.

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Jerome Wiedmann
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