General Motors Looks to Human Physiology for Powertrain Control

Electronic engine control takes cues from how the body regulates blood pressure

3 min read

15 October 2009—Mother Nature is a technological genius. The latest group of researchers to seek out her wisdom is a team from General Motors’ Propulsion Systems Research Laboratory, in Warren, Mich., and the University of Illinois at Chicago. This week, at the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC 2009), held in San Antonio, Texas, they presented their new electronic strategy for controlling an automotive powertrain that’s based on the method the human circulatory system uses to regulate blood pressure.

”An automotive engine is basically an air pump, but its operation is very similar to the heart,” says Hossein Javaherian, a GM Technical Fellow who is part of the team. It made sense, he says, that studying the heart’s control mechanism would allow control-system designers to learn how to optimize system performance more easily. That’s especially important, because carmakers are introducing more complex subsystems in response to demand for more powerful, responsive, and fuel-efficient vehicles.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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