Automotive Engineering

General Overview

Automotive engineering is the analysis, design, manufacturing and maintenance relating specifically focussed on automobiles, motorcycles and trucks. It incorporates many other disciplines of engineering and can be broken down depending on the engineers area of expertise.

 

The primary function of an automotive engineer is to look at vehicle safety. This drives all subsequent engineering procedures and divisions. Automotive engineering then incorporates many other fields such as mechanical/structural (design and development of mechanical components), electrical and electronic (looks after the many electronic systems required in a modern vehicle such as infotainment, lighting, heating ventilation and air conditioning systems etc.) and manufacturing engineers (look after the manufacturing and production of a vehicle to ensure it meets the design intent). The project timeline of automotives is typically 2 years and starts with initial concept drawings which are turned into style surfaces in Computer Aided Design (CAD). After a series of feasibility studies the production of tools is started and parts are manufactured at first in small quantities and prototype vehicles are constructed. After this there are usually modifications to be made to the design before mass production starts. The aftermarket provides customers with replacement parts and accessories long after the project has been completed.

 

Automotive engineers have to adhere to safety standards and guidelines although these are not as stringent as in the aerospace sector. Testing must be performed on products during the design stages to ensure these are met. Engineers may also be responsible for leading and managing people during projects, ensuring deadlines are met and work is of a high quality.

 

Bugatti engineers assembling the Bugatti Veyron by hand. Source: www.bugatti.com

The automotive industry originated in the late 19th century after the invention of the internal combustion engine. At first only the very wealthy could afford cars in contrast to today when there are said to be too many! Mass production of vehicles was first introduced by Henry Ford who designed the Model T, and spread to Europe where Morris Motors and General Motors followed. The industry expanded after WWII production increasing 10-fold and today it is one of the biggest sectors of revenue. New technologies are still being developed within the industry with the recent introduction of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Required Knowledge

Skills and Expertise

  • Problem solving

  • Mathematics and Physics from first principles

  • IT skills

  • Project management

  • Full vehicle integration understanding (of what each component does functionally and interacts with)

  • Excellent collaboration skills to communicate cross-functionally between different functional departments. (I.e. Body structures, interiors, exteriors, electrical, chassis etc.)

 

Software Understanding

  • CAD packages (E.g. CATIA, Solidworks, Autocad, Inventor, PTC Creo)

  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Software (E.g. Ansys, Abaqus, Nastran, HyperWorks)

  • Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations (E.g. MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint; Google Docs, Sheets and Slides)

Example Jobs
  • Design Engineer

  • Body Engineer

  • Manufacturing Engineer

  • Aerodynamics Engineer

  • Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) Analyst Engineer

  • Acoustic Engineer

  • Process Engineer

  • Product Integration Engineer

  • Automotive Build Technician

Institutions

UK: Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET)

USA: American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

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