By T Murrali:
The dynamics of the automotive industry across the globe is drastically changing to comply with the new regulations on environment, emissions, safety and efficiency, and to keep pace with the evolution to new mobility. The leading automotive supplier Magna International has positioned itself at the forefront of these transformative shifts. The company with a 60-year legacy now makes everything from seats to powertrains. It is the only auto supplier to build complete vehicles.
Swami Kotagiri, Chief Technology Officer, Magna International, told AutoParts Asia that the company has been leading the way in all areas of future mobility, with focus on electrification and autonomy. It has 340 manufacturing operations and 89 product-development, engineering and sales centres in 27 countries. Most of the vehicles on road today have Magna systems and modules.
“There is no question that we deal with one of the most complex and highly regulated products in the world. Predictions, especially related to autonomous and electrification, are risky since factors like legislation, infrastructure, cost, customer acceptance, etc., play a major role in the race to full implementation,” he said. Using its agility and entrepreneurial mindset the company develops new technologies to meet the changing market demands. “We are ready regardless of what the future of the industry would look like. And we have the unique ability to auto qualify solutions from other industries that help shape future mobility for the entire industry. This is our building block approach,” he said.
Magna believes that the vehicle does not just have technology; instead the vehicle itself is technology. Global automakers and suppliers are planning to spend USD300 billion over the next 10 years to bring electric cars to the mass market. A year ago, that figure was only USD90 billion. Just a few years ago, the ADAS market was relatively low. “We forecast now that by 2030, the annual ADAS market will be worth USD80 billion to USD95 billion. Our ever-expanding portfolio of powertrain products prepares us to match the market’s progress from internal combustion engines to plug-in hybrids to battery electric vehicles. Magna’s electrified powertrain capabilities include key components for modern eDrive systems, including e-motor, gearbox, inverter and control software that can easily be integrated into vehicles. On the ADAS side, Magna has a long history in developing vision technology, which has made us to be among the leaders in vision-based ADAS. We have been producing driver assist systems – the building block for autonomous vehicles — for OEMs since early 2000. Our new MAX4 Autonomous Drive Platform, is a great example of our capability in cameras, RADAR, LiDAR, ultrasonic sensors, computing platforms and system expertise,” Kotagiri said.
The automotive industry has always been impacted by areas like connected, safe and green mobility. Elaborating Magna’s contribution to these megatrends, he said, technologies such as electric self-starter, automatic transmission and power steering, delivered ease of use. Three-point seatbelts and airbags are major advances in occupant protection that have saved several lives. Hybrid drivetrains have been contributing mainly to improve fuel economy and the environment.
“With brilliant and disruptive thinking everywhere, the question isn’t about when things like driverless cars are coming or when all vehicles will be fully electric. The question is about who is ready for these transformative shifts. The pace and breadth of innovation has accelerated over the past five to ten years. Magna continues to develop its core competences in-house at an accelerated pace, and has always partnered with the brightest and the best for technological advancements. New technologies for future mobility are coming from further afield, i.e. Biometric sensors, RADAR, LiDAR, increasing requirements for onboard computing / processing and application of AI. This has driven many valuable partnerships with startups, entrepreneurs and technical specialists and enabled them to respond to the expanding technical requirements. Magna provides the application expertise and ability to rapidly commercialise and auto-qualify the technology. By combining the technical focus and agility of startups with the global volume production experience of Magna, needed by OEMs, we have a roadmap to accelerate technology development in far shorter time scales,” he said.
Magna expects to see the introduction and significant expansion of 48V Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles (MHEV) systems, especially in Europe. MHEV improves the operating efficiency of powertrains with IC engines, thereby reducing CO2. For Europe this will be an important feature to offset the effect of lower penetration of diesel engines, which have a better CO2 performance than gasoline engines.
“These MHEV systems will include configurations which are P0 (belt driven), P1 and P2 (engine driven), and what we call P2.5, which reflects the hybrid DCT (dual clutch transmission) transmission. We have developed both the mild hybrid and the full (high voltage) hybrid systems. Our 48V HDT can power the vehicle ‘engine-off,’ enabling numerous benefits (electric creeping, electric assisted sailing, etc.) even with low power 48V systems. We also expect to see further expansion of DCT transmissions globally, as this product is the most efficient automatic transmission and it alone can reduce CO2 versus traditional automatic transmissions. Our 7DCT300 is a base DCT which enables our OEM customers to upgrade to a P2.5 mild as well as full hybrid (including plug-in) without impacting installation / packaging in the vehicle. This is a really important feature for our OEM customers: a modular, scalable product enabling the flexibility of base IC engine, mild hybrid and full hybrid functionality. We also expect the demand for SUVs and CUVs (compact utility vehicles) to increase, and as well foresee the take rate on 4WD and AWD systems to increase as they bring consumer benefits of traction assist and active safety improvements. Our portfolio of on-demand / active 4WD and AWD systems will therefore support this trend and we expect growth in these traditional products during this period,” Kotagiri said.
According to him the car has become the beachhead for the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. Consumer electronics, cloud computing and driver assistance systems have converged in today’s car. “The vehicle does not just have technology, the vehicle is technology. That same kind of mindset is what will take us into the next generation manufacturing. Smart factory or Industry 4.0 is broad and touches many aspects of the manufacturing process. Advanced robotics performing complex assembly tasks is the one area we are focusing on. Additionally, we are working on advanced robotics to do some predictive analytics that will be used to schedule repairs and maintenance before machines break down and AI that provides access to real-time data, allowing managers to react immediately to a concern or quality issue,” he said.
With the connected car market growing, the need to have a protected environment and secure data is becoming more urgent and therefore, the company is taking proactive steps by working closely with cyber security experts on the technology that it develops, Kotagiri said.