President of Automotive Electronics at Bosch, Klaus Meder talks about how current trends in car design mean that tomorrow's vehicles will be fully internet connected, will run on renewable energy and will be increasingly autonomous...
Hanns Windele: What changes do you see arriving in the automotive electronics space? How will they affect Bosch as the biggest global automotive supplier?
Klaus Meder: I can see three major movements in the market, which I call: electrified, automated and connected. We can see today – and it will only increase over the next few years – that everything in the car is going to be electrified. Not only the powertrain, which is a whole story in itself, but literally everything.
Take, for example, the steering system. This started out as completely mechanical, later with hydraulic assistance. Then it moved to a combination of electronics and hydraulics. Now, it is becoming purely electric, with the next step doing away with the steering column altogether, with no mechanical connection between the driver’s hands and the wheels. Even in the compact class of cars there are now electric hatch doors, ventilation controls and so on. Everything will be electrified, moved by electric motors and electronically controlled.
Hanns Windele: And so the purpose of this is to increase automation?
Klaus Meder: If you want a future of partly-automated, fully-automated or autonomous cars, then you need to have all the functions electrified before you can start. You need to influence the steering, the powertrain, the lights and so on.
If there are certain clearly defined conditions, such as a traffic jam, where the driver will be operating the vehicle 'hands off', you need every part of the car to be electrified in order to make it controllable. Without the electrification, automatic or even autonomous cars will not be possible.
Hanns Windele: Then there is connectivity?
Klaus Meder: This is the third trend that has been going on for some time now. Everything in the car is connected via the Controller Area Network CAN, FlexRay, Ethernet and so on. But now we have more and more connection to the outside over the air interface.
First, the internet came into the car via the smartphone and the car became part of the internet. But now we will have direct connectivity between cars and infrastructure. There are already cars on the market that can download software over the air, and that trend is ongoing.
Hanns Windele: One of the key elements for these developments will be the increase in battery capacity and performance?
Klaus Meder: Our target is to double battery energy density and to halve the cost. So, we acquired the American battery company Seeo, which has solid-state technology and we think that they can meet the target. If we fulfill what we expect from the acquisition, it will be a very good investment.
Hanns Windele: You have an interesting collection of sensors on your windowsill?
Klaus Meder: Yes. I would actually donate this to a museum because it allows us to see the development of the technology since 1994. The reason I would donate the series is because it started with a piezoelectric yaw rate sensor for the electronic stability control system (ESC) to prevent skidding of cars and so it saved a lot of lives.
The sensors became smaller and cheaper as they became mass-produced and ended up in all cars in Europe and the US. So the technology evolved from being included in luxury cars, where you had to pay thousands of euros, to becoming a multidimensional very small MEMS sensor that is now in everyday gadgets, for example as a step counter or to control the screen direction. So it didn’t just save thousands of lives, but it also made our lives easier.