Planning Tomorrow’s Automotive Wiring Needs Today

The basic technology behind wiring assemblies for automobiles has not changed dramatically for several decades. And yet, the number of standard features packed into the typical family sedan has increased substantially. From convenience features like navigation systems and remote keyless entry, to safety add-ons like tire pressure monitoring, cabling requirements for even low-end vehicles are becoming more complex with each model year. At the same time, many functions previously managed by hydraulic or mechanical means are now controlled electrically or electronically. The number of tasks to be performed and managed by a car’s cable assembly has suddenly blossomed.

As features wiring becomes more complex and each car model’s electrical architecture is required to perform more functions, automotive manufacturers will look to their wiring harness suppliers for solutions to challenges that extend beyond the scope of cable assembly. Greater involvement earlier in the product cycle, and more integration with other suppliers and systems will become necessary to ensure compatibility, reliability and cost effectiveness. At the same time, pressure to provide wiring hardware very late in the development cycle will mount, according to some industry sources, who suggest that carmakers will want to have the flexibility to add features at the last minute without having to recreate the electrical/electronics system.

Clearly, the pressure on manufacturers to improve cabling components and streamline harness assemblies (without sacrificing cost effectiveness or quality) will only increase. One of the improvements in this area of late is the use of multiplexing systems, which not only reduce the sheer bulk of the cabling and harness assembly, but also have the advantage of improved flexibility and data sharing. Future developments will come from incorporating technologies from other applications such as fibre optics and flexible printed circuit boards, as well as making simple systems improvements such as partitioning and routing. A broader perspective on overall design and a more complete understanding of the whole car will lead to manufacturers to develop innovative products in this market segment.