Promoting excellence in mobility engineering

FISITA President Dr Akihiko Saito joins other leading engineers at 11th European Automotive Congress

Engineers and executives from FISITA’s European societies converged in Budapest, Hungary on 30 May for the 11th European Automotive Congress (EAEC). The opening plenary session saw top experts from vehicle manufacturers and government setting out their visions for a sustainable future for Europe’s automotive industry.

Dr. István Fórián, President of the Association of Hungarian Automotive Industry, began by outlining the importance of Hungary’s automotive sector which today accounts for 31% of GDP. Audi alone employs more than 5,000 people and produced EUR 5bn worth of product in Hungary during 2006. He believed the country was in a strong position to attract still more automotive R&D investment due to a combination of a high level university system, relatively low HR costs, flexible trade union agreements, development support from government and Hungary’s location at the heart of Europe.

The European Commission was represented by Ben Van Houtte, Head of Unit for Logistics, Innovation, Intelligent Transport & Co-modality, DG-TREN. He outlined the Commission’s vision to deploy ITS as a solution to three of Europe’s key transportation policy goals, namely: the need to enhance safety, to make more efficient use of existing road infrastructure and to help combat climate change. “ITS is at the heart of Europe’s policy for sustainable transportation” Mr. Van Houtte told delegates. The EU are committed to working closely with manufacturers and public authorities to develop a Europe-wide framework, and to rolling out the benefits of ITS to all road users, not just buyers in the premium vehicle segments.

Prof. Christian von Glasner, President of the European Association for Accident Research and Analysis, discussed the need for greater advances in safety and the ways in which electronics in particular offers the key to saving many more lives. According to Prof. von Glasner, the huge advances made by engineers in occupant protection and crashworthiness mean that passive safety systems in vehicles are already close to 90% of their potential in terms of mitigating injury and saving lives. Active safety technologies, on the other hand, have still only reached around 50% of their potential. Dr. von Glasner believed that vast increases in computing power within today’s vehicles provides engineers with an opportunity to make a major leap forward in developing accident avoidance technologies. An example of this was Europe’s eSafety initiative, seen as being vital to the Commission’s aggressive goal of halving Europe’s road traffic fatalities by 2010.

FISITA President, Dr. Akihiko Saito who is Senior Advisor to the Board and Senior Technical Executive, Toyota Motor Corporation, addressed the topic: “Today for Tomorrow – Toyota’s Philosophy and Challenges Toward Sustainable Mobility”. For Toyota this meant “think to the future and take action right now” and was the fundamental principle of the company’s R&D activities, based on “proactivity”.

“Toyota’s vision for R&D can be summed up in two words: “Zeronize” and “Maximize” he explained. “Zeronize” means we are ultimately striving for zero negative impacts on our environment, zero accidents and zero traffic congestion. At the same time, we are striving for maximum positive impact on personal enrichment through comfort, fun and excitement.”

Dr. Saito gave the example of Toyota’s petrol hybrid vehicles. “The Prius’ CO2 emissions are about forty percent lower than current petrol vehicles. In addition, NOx emissions are significantly less than with current diesel vehicles, and CO2 is about twenty percent lower. Yet at the same time, hybrids also offer outstanding acceleration performance – in the case of the Lexus GS450h, higher than conventional powertrain vehicles”.

Dr. Saito told the congress that Toyota’s goal was to reach production of one million hybrid vehicles per year, as early as possible during the coming decade.

“For resolution of global issues, the creativity of automotive engineers is key. And in order to maximize their creativity, it is indispensable to compete and cooperate with each other. From this point of view, automotive engineering societies such as EAEC and FISITA can make a significant contribution”.

Complete proceedings from the EAEC Congress are available from FISITA’s on-line store: