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EuroBrake 2021: Chassis systems – a new approach to OEM-supplier collaboration?

Foxconn joined Audi, Bosch, ZF, and professors from Braunschweig and Munich to discuss next-gen chassis systems

One of the highlights of EuroBrake 2021 was the EuroBrake Strategy Panel, which this year focused on chassis systems.

Chaired by Dr. Georg-Peter Ostermeyer of TU Braunschweig, and Jan Münchhoff of Audi, the session featured leading industry and academic experts delivering presentations and discussing a range of topics, including the future of OEM-supplier collaboration, the evolution of the supply chain, and the role of open and collaborative platform development.

Audi and the importance of automaker DNA

Jan Münchhoff, Director Development Driving Characteristics, Driver Assistance and Autonomous Driving Systems at Audi and Chair of EuroBrake, opened by underlining the importance of automaker DNA, and how Audi develops driving characteristics in its cars. The Audi DNA is like a fingerprint, he said, making it distinctive and unique in the market. “You should recognise if you step into an Audi right away that it is an Audi. If that happens, then we’ve achieved our target.” There are two driving characteristics of particular relevance to the automaker’s braking and chassis teams, he explained – effortless driving and controlled driving. “Effortless means an Audi car should be easy to drive even under very severe conditions, such as winter conditions, or feeling relaxed even after a very long drive. As for controlled driving, this means expecting a predictable car reaction in really high dynamic situations.”

Chassis systems generate customer experience

Professor Peter Pfeffer, professor of automotive engineering at Munich University of Applied Sciences addressed the question, can chassis systems generate customer experiences? His conclusion? Yes, they can. “We have so many freedoms to set parameters, to change characteristics, to change tyres, tune steering systems, and brake systems, and therefore we can fulfil customer needs. We need new methods to do that. If we can manage these tools, we can really generate a great customer experience.”

ZF and chassis integration

Manfred Meyer, Senior Vice President Active Safety division at ZF Group spoke about the potential for chassis integration. Trends in vehicle technology, said Meyer, put software and electrification at the heart of vehicle manufacturing, whether that’s by a legacy automaker, a so-called radical automaker, or a true disrupter who sees the next generation of mobility as “computers on wheels.” The ZF response, said Meyer, was to develop a platform for vehicle hardware and software. “The hardware platform consists of all the actuators needed to drive a vehicle. And all the software which connects these actuators is one software module, which we call Cubix, which controls all of the actuators in one app. A vehicle manufacturer can use this hardware platform or the software platform, giving them a system to plug and play into their central controller. Any of these three categories of vehicle manufacturer can drive their vehicles, their supercomputer on wheels, but they do not need to worry about the integration of hardware.”

Bosch’s pre-integrated system solution

Automakers need to balance megatrends such as automation, connectivity, and electrification, with shortened time to market and reduced development budgets. “How we can we support the OEM as a supplier?” said Ulrich Schulmeister, Vice President Systems Engineering Vehicle at Robert Bosch. “Our answer is the so-called pre-integrated system solution.” With its Advanced Driving Module, or ADM, he explained, “Bosch can enable customers to combine and ensure safety and secure relevant motion control systems – and that way the OEM can retain its own specific DNA for differentiation from their competitors.” This ADM solution, he said, is ready for deployment.

Foxconn and the Android of EVs

William Wei, Chief Technology Officer at Foxconn Group presented Foxconn’s rapidly developing MIH EVKit open EV platform. “Everybody is building the Nokia of EV,” said Wei, “but MIH is building the Android of EV with an open platform for mainstream and specialized applications.”

The Foxconn MIH approach to future electric vehicles, he said, is that “we think cars are like smartphones that move with mission-critical characteristics. The mission critical characteristics are real-time, security, and safety to take care of their sensory perception, vehicle control, and protection for safety.” The goal, Wei explained, “is for everybody to have free access to EVKit to develop all user experiences based on different kinds of domain in an EV.”

Common platforms and the OEM-supplier relationship

Asked how the role of the OEM might evolve, Wei said, “I believe the future of the OEM will be like today's smartphone players, focusing on branding and differentiating themselves by user experiences.”

Pursuing the importance of brand differentiation, Meyer of ZF said, “It's extremely important that we're not developing a plug-and-play system where the OEM customer has no tuning ability. Any OEM needs to differentiate their platforms and their strategies from low to high-end vehicles, and from brand A to brand B.”

An open platform would enable more players in different domains to enter this space and speed up innovation, said Wei. Modularisation would require standards, and the speed of innovation runs differently to the speed of developing standards, cautioned Schulmeister of Bosch: “It's a question of speed – when will we have these standards?”

Schulmeister also noted the need to find the right balance when cooperating with a pool of suppliers. “We have to work together with our suppliers in the network, that's clear, but the question is, what is the right number of partners so that you can reduce complexity, and not increase complexity?”

Time to focus on the systems around the brake

Drawing the session to a close, Ostermeyer noted, “In addition to the technical input, I took away one thought in particular from this EuroBrake Strategy Panel discussion, and that is that we need to focus more and more on the systems around the brake.” That, he said, is a new challenge for EuroBrake.

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