Recently elected an SAE Fellow, Prof. Neville Jackson is Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of Ricardo plc. He is also a member of the Boards of Ricardo Innovations and Ricardo Inc. During his nearly 34 years with the company Prof. Jackson has been, and continues to be, responsible for a wide range of new technologies and innovations. He also supports Ricardo's diversification strategy to meet emerging challenges related to transport, urban mobility and energy. Prof. Jackson will be recognized by SAE on April 3 at a special SAE Fellows dinner in Detroit during WCX17.
Automotive Engineering Europe Editor Stuart Birch discussed with him some of these issues.
Ricardo is a century-old company of huge experience; what is its role in the unfolding connected, autonomous, electrified car era?
Throughout those 100 years, it has been focused on efficiency and optimization. Looking at the new era, I believe it is largely a continuation of that theme. Ricardo started as an engine company before expanding into transmissions, drivelines and controls. We then considered how the powertrain interacts with the vehicle—and with the environment.
Now, we look at a much bigger picture of mobility, taking a more holistic view of energy, environment, cities and connected information, which together offer another opportunity to optimize the individual elements in that mobility system. It is a continuously expanding area for us. To optimize individual components we increasingly need to look at the whole system, and how it operates, in order to deliver much improved characteristics to vehicle owners.
In research, we don’t believe in plateaus; things will always change. For example, the rate that ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) has improved—and goes on improving—is phenomenal.
What specific engineering support will Ricardo engineering and expertise provide to OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers (and motor sport) as we move into and through the 2020s?
Again, it is formed around the whole systems’ engineering issue, ensuring that we continue to improve the product and services we provide, always with an understanding of the requirements of the environment. What we try to do as a business, and what we try to provide in engineering support, is to give our customers something they do not have themselves: technology, capability, and maybe a broader understanding that they don’t have in-house.
With motor sport the technology can be pushed much harder—and faster—than with road cars. We may bring to customers something that they may not even have thought of!
Is the auto industry sufficiently aware of the opportunities that “smart cities” and the Internet of Things may deliver?
The ICT revolution will probably have more impact on the auto industry than anything else it has faced before. Smart cities, in which Ricardo is heavily involved, and the Internet of Things are closely linked. It’s all about how to make the total city infrastructure, energy resources and mobility systems, work in close harmony.
Having connected autonomous, more intelligent systems that can ‘understand’ how it all fits together rather than operating individually, is a major opportunity. But there are also potential disrupters, such as what might happen in terms of business and ownership models.
Real steps forward will come in the cognitive pattern recognition AI machine learning area, where we can bring together and optimize many more things than we once could: understanding both patterns and interactions, and how to operate systems as a whole to deliver the best individual performance.
The key change we have to see on electrification is not just about such things as batteries, it is the user-centric approach. To achieve the majority market, we have to make it better for us all to live with an electric type vehicle than a conventional vehicle. That means we have to look very seriously at both the charging issue and infrastructure.
But the big issue that must be resolved is this: As a consumer, am I really happy to deal with the everyday living experience of an electric vehicle?