Laptop Car Engineer

Controls Engineer

AEHQ Core Automotive Knowledge & Principles Leave a Comment

Many of us have seen the popular TV series “The Walking Dead” which portray the stories and lives of people who are trapped in a zombie apocalypse but most importantly feature the ever present zombies.  The concept of zombies seems to fascinate people worldwide with their mindless wandering and constant craving for living flesh.  These mindless walking dead victims have lost all semblance of their human self and instead just have the basic functionality needed to seek their next meal.   Essentially, their on-board programming has been rewired and reduced to just one simple command they use to function and they have lost all the complex feelings, actions and thoughts of their former human selves.

There is a similarity between humans and machines as the technology that we use to power them grow increasingly complex.  There are the simple machines that operate at a very basic level performing a singular task much like the mindless human zombies that focus on simply their next meal.  Or there are the more complex machines like automobiles that are composed of a variety of different electronic ‘brains’ that must be programmed to perform more complex operations and function in harmony with other parts within the automobile.  The automobile has taken on the same complexity as a human being with our complex thoughts, coordinated movements and socially accepted actions that we must all do in our day to day lives.  The technological advances in the automobile have created the need for a new engineer to write the code for the automobile to function correctly and this job is the Controls Engineer or Programmer.

Controls engineering job description

The controls engineer or programmer job is the position that uses control theory to design systems and controls that make the automobile perform as required.  They will take inputs from a variety of different sensors such as temperature or speed that they receive from the different components within the automobile and make the necessary adjustments in the vehicle to provide the desired response.  For example, when the driver desires to stop the automobile they will apply the break, the programming in the car will start a series of actions based on that input.  First, the amount of fuel being sent to the engine will start to slow as the engine slows down the number of rpms, then the transmission will down shift according to the slowing speed;  the brake lights will be turned on and even the radio sound will be adjusted for the reduced travel noise.  The automobile will continue to monitor the braking action to ensure that the vehicle is being slowed at the desired rate and if there seems to be a problem with slowing may actuate the anti-lock braking system to help stop the vehicle.  All of these activities require coordination, programming and tweaking to get the optimal performance and this is where the controls engineer job is important.  They will coordinate all these inputs and use the correct algorithms and control systems to create the desired outputs.

Requirements for a controls engineer

To work as a controls engineer you will need to have a background in electrical components, programing and computer systems.  Additionally, you will need to have an understanding of automotive engineering to be able to program the performance of the automobile so that it will operate correctly for the end customer.   To earn a degree for this position you will want to begin with your school work in high school or secondary school.  The admissions departments in colleges and universities will look for a strong background in math, science, chemistry and physics and then additional experience with the desired degree.  For example, if you choose to pursue a degree in programming then you may want to discuss programs or apps that you have written previously to show your interest and skills in this field.

While it may be interesting to watch walking dead zombies on TV it’s the stories of the complex people that are most interesting in moving the series forward.  The same is true for the automotive industry, you could drive the mechanically simple Model T Ford but the ride in the complex modern vehicle with its multitude of features all working in harmony is going to be much more enjoyable.  The controls engineer is responsible for these complex vehicles all working in harmony and will have a role in future vehicle design as the brains behind them continue to grow in complexity.

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