Set-up after the company took over Siemens VDO Automotive AG in 2007, the Continental Commercial Vehicles and Aftermarket (CVAM) business unit supplies instrumentation technologies and clusters for CVs and two-wheelers, covering segments not part of the passenger vehicle sector. To understand the trends and future roadmap, we recently spoke to Dr Michael Jorg Ruf, Head, Business Unit CVAM, Continental Automotive GmbH (R), and Dr Christian Neumann, Head, Business Unit CVAM, Continental India (L).
Dr Christian Neumann studied Physics at the University of Konstanz. After working for one year as a postdoctoral researcher in Tokyo, he joined Robert Bosch GmbH, where his initial area of work was on Novel Technologies in corporate research. In 2008, he moved to the Commercial Vehicles Business Unit of Continental Automotive GmbH, where he was responsible for the Cabin & Body Programme before moving to India as CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of a JV company of Continental. He is heading CVAM India since July 2013.
Dr Michael Jorg Ruf studied Electrical Engineering in Stuttgart and Munich, and received his PhD from Technical University of Munich in 1996. He was employed at Robert Bosch GmbH at Hildesheim, where he worked in Research and Predevelopment of Multimedia Systems from 1996 until 2000. In 2006, Dr Ruf joined Siemens VDO Automotive GmbH at Wetzlar, where he was Head of Engineering of the Business Unit Infotainment Solutions, and later became CEO of the business unit.
ATR _ The domestic commercial vehicle (CV) market has seen sales decline over the last three years. What is your view on this segment, and when do you expect it to show growth?
MICHAEL JORG RUF (MJR) _ We look at the CV segment from two perspectives – vehicles manufactured and content in the vehicles. We see only a slight increase in manufacturing volumes in the industry. While many markets including Brazil, China and Europe have shown reduced volumes over the last few years, it is changing now, with the global CV market showing a slight increase. However, the content seen in CVs is clearly set to be increasing, mainly due to the fact that more technologies are entering the vehicles.
What are the trends being seen within the CVAM industry globally, and in India?
MJR _ The primary trend is in developing technologies that help customers in reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of vehicles. In terms of electronics, there are technologies like eHorizon, automated driving and changes to the cluster design. Everything around human-machine interface (HMI) is being altered, like a fully-reconfigurable TFT cluster, which displays only information that is needed. In addition to the HMI looking nicer, it also gets cheaper as the number of switches is reduced.
Other technologies include safety systems like driver monitoring, LED lighting and tachograph legislation, force feedback pedal that enhances fuel efficiency, and other including connected powertrain and hybridisation. Force feedback pedal is used to educate drivers to drive better in order to improve fuel consumption, while adaptive accelerator provides feedback for better information including shift indicator and braking information. Meanwhile, connected powertrain is something that Continental is working on, and is related to dynamic eHorizon, where with cloud data, the powertrain can be steered better.
Could you elaborate on the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technologies apt for CVs in India?
MJR _ Although many highways in India make it apt for the introduction of systems like automated driving, there aren't enough of these highways in the country. However, emergency braking and blind spot detection systems will be options more suitable for CVs in India.
CHRISTIAN NEUMANN (CN) _ There are a lot of accidents involving CVs, especially where drivers fall asleep, and Emergency Braking is very important to avert such accidents. Additionally, Emergency Braking systems can also implemented easily due to the ABS regulation, as sub-systems for ABS can be provided with EBS as a single package. Blind spot detection cannot really be implemented, since smaller vehicles such as two-wheelers remain too close to the trucks, not allowing the system to work properly. Adaptive cruise control is also another technology that can be adopted by the CV segment, but it would not work appropriately on Indian road conditions that have many obstacles, like speed breakers. The main factor to look into, while introducing a new technology is to see if it is mature enough to be brought into the market.
Have the Indian Government regulations of Bus Body Code and ABS-mandate for CVs changed the products or development design of products?
CN _ Apart from the new vehicles, the ABS-mandate necessitates the retrofitting of this system into older trucks. Technologies and systems do change due to such legislations, as the requirement for ABS results in increased connectivity between the different ECUs, including the ABS, engine control, CAN, body control. Additionally, there is increased electronic content in the form of electronic boxes, sensors, and larger displays. However, new trucks are equipped with sufficient electronics to include ABS into its system quite easily.
MJR _ It gives us more opportunities to solve the truck architecture in a smarter way, with the advantage of the additional investment being low.
What is the direction the CVAM business unit is taking towards R&D?
MJR _ We follow a local-for-local approach for the development of our products, which includes local development, local production, and local project management. The local team comes up with the right solutions that are apt for the market, and are unique to that region's requirements. It is impossible to develop solutions from products offered in western countries, and try to alter them for use in markets like India. Mere alteration of existing products may result in the offering of solutions that might not be necessary, too much in number, and as a result too expensive.
CN _ The company also works with global CV and two-wheeler OEMs that have local presence on solutions that are more relevant for the markets they sell their products in. In many cases, Continental also works with companies that undertake vehicle development in offering the most suitable solutions for the OEMs.
How does the CVAM India unit leverage strengths of the Asian region?
CN _ Continental carries out the development of CVAM products that are produced and supplied for the country. It includes hardware, mechanics, and software, which are usually developed at each location where components are manufactured. The development work is co-ordinated with the company's global teams, as well as its Tech Centre India (TCI). Continental TCI is known for its competency in the development of software for various technological solutions. It should also be noted that certain segments of the Indian automotive industry influences global markets in the development of products and solutions.
MJR _ Continental makes use of the creative potential of the engineers in India, especially when it comes to specialised and cost-efficient solutions. I am convinced that the Asian region as a whole has a different way of thinking when it comes to realising problems and issues, which is a big potential area. Another area of potential is that of manufacturing, which is set to continue to grow in future. The brain power of this region also helps in cross-fertilisation of ideas and talent across locations.
Continental also works along with companies like IBM, CISCO and HERE, besides others, for the development of various solutions to offer to its customers. For example, with relevance to automated driving, the company works with IBM for Big Data, with CISCO for data security and connectivity solutions, and with HERE for high-definition maps.
How suitable or equipped is India for automated driving technologies?
MJR _ In terms of suitability, there are only few roads that could enable the use of automated driving technology, which is not very helpful towards implementation of this system. Additionally, there needs to be a drastic change in the way traffic moves in the country, in order for such technologies to be implemented.
With systems like Emergency Braking, over 50 % of the automated driving technology is directly present in the vehicle. Emergency Braking systems include radars, cameras and other sensors, with only electric steering and additional connectivity being required for automated driving. But this would also involve additional investment, and India may not be the first market where automated driving will be introduced. However, in about 20 years, with the development of infrastructure and highways, at least the long haul inter-city traffic can make use of automated driving technologies.
How do you think new and upcoming emission regulations would affect the development of CV technologies and products in future?
CN _ In India, with the implementation of standards equivalent to Euro IV, there is an increased degree of electronics that is required for better diagnostics. These include on-board diagnostics (OBD) tools and additional warning lamps in the instrumentation, which lead to additional possibilities of vehicle diagnosis at the workshop also. Therefore, the new norms are not only used to control emission levels, but also for additional electronic capabilities.
How fast is electromobility catching up in the CV industry?
MJR _ The implementation of electromobility within the CV sector is limited. Mostly, the last mile delivery CVs are suitable to be electrified due to their repeated start-stop nature of travel. Meanwhile, in medium-duty trucks and heavy-duty trucks only mild hybridisation and power recuperation may be effective, unless there is complete disruption in the area of battery technology.
CN _ Infrastructure plays a vital role even in this area, as the generation of electricity is not clean to begin with. Electricity is generated through generators that run on fossil fuels, which is not the best form of power generation. While technologies like hybrids and brake energy regeneration works for passenger cars, it is not clear whether they really bring a cost benefit to trucks.
What is the company doing in terms of helping establish smart cities in India?
CN _ The company has a new business unit called Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) that provides services and functions that make transport and travelling safer, more efficient and more comfortable. It includes applications that use data from vehicles, infrastructure or the cloud to provide information on the dangers and obstacles on the road. The addition of connectivity and electronic devices to make cities and transportation smarter will definitely come.
MJR _ Continental is offering solutions that enhance connectivity, which is required for the development of smart transportation and smart cities. This depends heavily on the infrastructure that is available, since smart cities will need a minimum level of requirement from the various types of transportation offered.
Text & Photo: Naveen Arul