Suppliers Compelled to Think Simpler

January 19, 2017

While it may seem counter-intuitive, connected and self-driving vehicles are forcing suppliers to simplify their components.


During a supplier panel discussion January 11 at the Detroit  2017 Automotive News World Congress, Visteon CEO, Sachin Lawande said the proliferation of electronic control units is adding cost, weight, complexity and energy consumption at an unsustainable rate.


A typical luxury vehicle already has more than 100 engine control units (ECUs) -- a number that will jump as automakers introduce self-driving vehicles. “ECUs are proliferating at a rate that our customers cannot sustain,” Lawande said.


The solution? Design multi-domain controllers that can operate multiple devices. Visteon, for example, has introduced a multi-domain controller that integrates the instrument cluster, center console display and head-up display. One ECU replaces three.


“We know that [self-driving vehicles] will put an incredible load” on power-trains, said

BorgWarner CEO James Verrier. “So you need an offset from the propulsion system.”  

Photo credit: Joe Wilssens


Likewise, the complexity of a self-driving vehicle’s steering, brakes and sensors could overwhelm the ability of automakers to properly test their vehicles.


“When we validate a brake system, you drive 1 million kilometers, and that’s enough,” said Frank Jourdan, president of Continental AG’s chassis and safety division. “For autonomous vehicles, you have to drive 240 million kilometers, which is impossible. We have to find new ways to validate them.”


Self-driving vehicles also will require new cockpits to allow motorists to work, relax and interact with passengers when the vehicle is in autonomous mode.


For example, seats might pivot to allow passengers to chat with each other. But that will require new airbags, seat belts and seat structures. “We are rethinking the safety implications, so that we can do it in a safe and cost-effective way,” said Byron Foster, Adient’s executive vice president.


The energy demands of a vehicle’s sensors, computer chips and displays will force suppliers to design more efficient power-train components.


“We know that [self-driving vehicles] will put an incredible load” on powertrains, said BorgWarner CEO James Verrier. “So you need an offset from the propulsion system.”


Sedgwick, David (2017). "Suppliers compelled to think simpler". Retrieved from

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