ZF, the leading global automotive system supplier for the automotive industry, is strengthening its position by developing key technologies for autonomous driving, enhancing safety and efficiency. From 2020, about 2,500 engineers will reinforce ZF’s global engineering network in software development to enhance the intelligence of vehicle electronic control units. For this ZF will construct a technology centre in Hyderabad, India.
“India will be a key strategic technology centre for ZF. It is very important for us that we have the expertise in software and data analytics. The India Tech Centre will work in tandem with all other technology centres of ZF and support the company’s technology areas in the mechanical side also. However, it will be a competent centre for software,” ZF’s CEO, Stefan Sommer, told AutoParts Asia.
“We are already present with some companies in India that support us in ramping up our own technology centre. It is very important to manage and develop all the future challenges coming from the massive data in computing. India is a leading country in the world for software development and is heavily enlarging the expertise and the people who can manage them. We are happy to take this step now for the India Tech Centre to have strong partners in the country,” he said on the sidelines of IAA 2016 press conference in Hannover, Germany.
Sommer said, “Cyber security or data security is a must to deal with all the data analytics. The Indian software companies have huge know-how in this area as they are working not only with automotive but many other industries including banking, finance etc, where cyber security is more relevant. We can learn from them and use what they have already as know-how. This is the great advantage of our proposed activities in India.”
The slogan ‘See – Think – Act’ portrayed ZF’s competencies and strategy at the recently concluded IAA show. They enable commercial vehicles to see, think and act and it was demonstrated in the ZF Innovation Truck 2016. It featured state-of-the-art advanced driver assist systems – including the world’s first brake assist and assisted emergency steering control systems for heavy commercial vehicles.
These developments were aided by ZF’s acquisitions of various companies in recent times. The acquisition of TRW in 2015 was an important milestone in the expansion of its capabilities in the fields of sensor technology, control electronics and mechatronic systems. The company acquired also stakes in the lidar system experts Ibeo and the software company doubleSlash. ZF continues to develop electrification of the commercial vehicle driveline. Production-ready technology for hybrid and all-electric drives cover all application fields and fully satisfies market needs.
“We are aligning our products with the major trends of automation, networking, safety and electrification. Our innovative focus will provide fully-integrated, intelligent mechatronic systems which will contribute to a safe and emission-free mobile world. ZF is positioned as a one-stop supplier of future-oriented technologies. With our technological focus, we are able to cover all major aspects of autonomous driving which enables vehicles to see, think and act – this is our unique selling proposition,” Sommer said.
The ZF Innovation Truck recognises its surroundings in three dimensions using sensor fusion and advanced mechanical systems, which process the data and execute the best course of action, including electrified drive and steering systems. One of its three assistance functions is the Evasive Manoeuvre Assist (EMA), developed by ZF in a joint project with WABCO.
Sommer said “the company is developing its capabilities to expand its portfolio of such fully-integrated intelligent systems.” These investments and acquisitions are in line with the company’s philosophy and it will continue to expand strategically its range of actuators.
Last August ZF announced a public offer for Haldex Aktiebolag, a supplier of brake products and air suspension systems for commercial vehicles. This was initiated as the business combination of both the companies offered opportunity to expand jointly their value to the customer in the supply of commercial vehicles. The areas identified for that were drivetrain and chassis, brake and air suspension solutions, and other future megatrends in mobility. With Haldex’s brake systems for commercial vehicles, ZF would be able to cover the whole functional chain of commercial vehicles. This will result in more safety for all traffic participants.
ZF has a long-term collaboration with WABCO, which is a system supplier for brakes for commercial vehicles. To the question, whether ZF’s proposed buyout of Haldex would hamper its relationship with WABCO, since both are competitors, Sommer said the ZF collaboration with WABCO was on project basis. “This seems to be a project, which is successful. We very much appreciate the support of WABCO as a company and its engineers. We share the vision for the future. Certain business environment brought us to the situation, where there is an opportunity with Haldex as our own subsidiary, to proceed further. So this is in consequence for us. Currently we are giving our best to make our offer that we gave to our shareholders. Hopefully we can succeed,” he said.
On the possibilities of sharing platform amongst ZFs’ subsidiaries and collaborators, Sommer said, “We did not detail strategies together with WABCO. We need carefully to assess in which focus we collaborate with both companies. We didn’t do that so far.”
The concept of ‘Vision Zero’ – or a mobile world without emissions and accidents – also requires solutions that can improve fuel efficiency or potentially can even replace internal combustion engines with electric motors. To support this goal, ZF integrated its e-mobility activities into a separate division at the start of 2016.
According to recent estimates, the market for hybrid or all-electric vehicles will grow by a factor of seven to ten by 2025. “We will benefit from this growth and shape the market. Our unique systems competence regarding the integration of chassis, driveline and electronics is the perfect prerequisite,” Sommer said. In relation to commercial vehicles, ZF is well positioned to address this growth with its complete product portfolio of hybrid and all-electric drive solutions for city buses, coaches as well as heavy and light trucks.