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The University of Southampton

SESM3031 Automobile Systems

Module Overview

This module covers the aspects of design and operation of modern automobile systems. It discusses the structure, dynamics, electrical and electronics systems (including data flow) as well as handling and control of modern vehicles. While the focus of discussions is mainly on passenger cars, the knowledge obtained by attending this module is also applied to other types of vehicle. Prior to attending this module students are expected to have understood the basic engine systems,materials and systems dynamics. By attending this module, students are expected to gain knowledge of the general design and working principle of automobile systems.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The basic strength and stiffness characteristics of typical automotive structures as well as of common loading conditions for performing elementary design calculations
  • The common suspensions and steering geometries, the longitudinal and lateral dynamics of road vehicles.
  • The electrical and electronic systems and instruments in automotive application, with an emphasis on electromechanical devices, and to indicate future developments in this field.
  • Data flow and communication in a vehicle electronic system.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Gain an insight into aspects of vehicle design, operation and maintenance, which will be useful for taking up a position in the automotive industry. This evidences training to ensure fitness for purpose for all aspects of the problem including production, operation, maintenance and disposal.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Listening, identifying learning needs, evaluating sources and data, interpretation of data, problem solving, problem analysis.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply understanding of appropriate codes of practice and standards to the automotive industry.


Handling Characteristics of Road Vehicles: • Tyre characteristics • Longitudinal dynamics and performance • Steering geometry, Ackerman criterion. • Steady state handling characteristics and slip angle. • Oversteer, understeer, neutral steer. • Lateral acceleration response, yaw velocity response, curvature response. • Transient response and vehicle stability. • Suspensions characteristics and influence on vehicle performance, handling and comfort. Automotive Structures: • Design criteria, basic assumptions regarding structural element interactions and stress distributions. • Standard loading cases, assessment of maximum applied forces under various dynamic conditions. • Types of automotive structures, modelling using structural su faces, load paths. • Response to impact, thin-walled structures, energy absorption by plastic collapse, finite element modelling. Automotive Instrumentation, Control and Communication: • Overview of Automotive Electronics Systems • Wiring architectures: harness, connectors and buses • Control Area Network (CAN) and On Board Diagnosis (OBD) • Examples of automotive sensors and actuators • Review of internal combustion engines and their operation • Engine management systems • Brake and traction systems, anti-lock braking & traction control • Introduction to hybrid/electric vehicle

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching methods employed in the delivery of this module include: • Lectures, including some sessions delivered by external lecturer from automotive industry • Solutions to assigned problems • Demonstrations and video material when appropriate The learning activities include: • Individual reading of background material and course texts, plus work on examples. • Example sheets and worked solutions.

Wider reading or practice80
Completion of assessment task34
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Lecture materials accessible on Blackboard.. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Final Assessment  100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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