When he arrived at the university in 1988 he was employed by the former Rover Group, and joined WMG officially in 1992. Over the next four years he became only the second person in the country to complete the pioneering Engineering Doctorate, a scheme in which Warwick is a UK leader. Since then he has been on an executive committee which looks after all students on the EngD, PhD and MSc by Research programmes. His research has seen him become an ambassador for WMG in Japan, the USA and Europe. Before coming to Warwick, Oxford physics graduate Prof Jennings worked for Leicester-based optical and thermal imaging experts Rank Taylor Hobson.
When it comes to the latest cars, Prof Jennings and his team are interested in taking out the noise and putting in the sound. Their research into product perception, based on a longstanding relationship with Jaguar Cars, includes a simulator in the form of a static car at the International Manufacturing Centre. The vehicle and its associated equipment form a revolutionary Interactive NVH Simulator.
The car ‘drives into’ a virtual world, on a screen ahead complete with road, verges and trees, while the driver, wearing headphones, carries out a series of tests. Using a touch screen, he or she can change the car type or even the components and evaluate the resulting whole-vehicle sound. The research is being used to help manufacturers make the right decisions as early as possible in the design of a new car.
Prof Jennings says: “For instance, if you are on a motorway and put your foot down to overtake, you probably don’t want silence.“We are interested in the sound you experience as a driver, which isn’t just about the engine. It is also very subjective, based on who that person is.”
In fact, the methods are being adapted to evaluate customer opinion regarding the entire make-up of a car, from advanced driver control systems to interior design.
The team is now extending its research beyond the automotive industry to other areas – such as town centre environments and hospital intensive care units. Prof Jennings says: “Generally people see noise as being unwanted, but sound has many positive aspects.”
Green machines of the future are another area of Prof Jennings’ research. His team aims to pull together everyone involved in the development of hybrid vehicles. The vehicles which are powered by a combination of a battery and engine are seen as the way forward in the battle to cut emissions.
The research aims to help manufacturers, suppliers and purchasers, including individuals, companies and public bodies such as local authorities, to optimise their use. For instance, driver behaviour, fuel economy, performance and environment have to be taken into account along with the political and legislative constraints.
Prof Jennings says: “Hybrid vehicles are a step in the right direction and we are moving from quirky cars like the Prius and Insight to having hybrid versions of most vehicles. To optimise their performance it is important for us to understand and act on the needs of all stakeholders.”