By Jim Jordan
Every year the auto companies, industry press, politicians, and the general public get together in Detroit to see the bright and shiny new line-up… it is time again for the North American International Auto Show. Chris McClellan and I used this opportunity to follow-up with many of our current and potential clients during the Industry insider week. They shared with us company strategy, new products, and specific opportunities for collaboration. It’s not just the marketing teams in attendance, many of the product engineers are available.
As Chris and I arrived, we checked into BASF’s suite to hang up our jackets and learn more about this important client. From paint to printable metals, BASF is all about advanced materials. Their suite does an amazing job with hands-on displays that communicate what makes them special. There was a thermodynamics display that showed how one of their materials can dissipate high heat in a very short distance… talk about a hands-on approach.
Our walk through the main auditorium seemed shorter than other years. As expected, Mercedes has continued to show off their luxury brand front and center. However, they didn’t seem to highlight as much advanced technology compared to previous years. GM/Ford/FCA never cease to amaze me at how many platforms they sell. All-in-all, anything they try to highlight seems to get lost in the sea of vehicles. Acura had a carbon fiber NSX that was my favorite show vehicle. The Chevy ZR1 supercharged LT5 6.2 liter V8 is an impressive powerhouse. GAC motors displayed a few models, including an electric crossover concept, in anticipation of entering the US market. Honda featured the 2018 North American Car of the Year Honda Accord alongside examples of their racing heritage. The Honda Civic type R is one of the more aggressively styled cars on the floor. There were many self-driving prototypes, but the real technology was in the mobility pavilion.
The large tier ones (ZF, Denso, Aisin), all had advanced displays that demonstrated their commitment to the electrification of the vehicle and how it impacts autonomous mobility. ZF’s transformation story is amazing. The strategic acquisition of TRW and the complete change in direction of the company was highlighted in every display. They are a completely different company and seem to be in a great position.
This year, there was again a significant display of mobility technology in the downstairs exhibit hall. Hella displayed a series of sub-systems from front end modules to an impressive driver interface center stack. The sensors and controls seemed to anticipate what you wanted to do. From virtual teardowns to 3DS’s latest and greatest, there were a lot of tools to help the engineer.
The focus of the technology area highlighted the key systems needed for autonomous vehicles. The first was onboard LIDAR. They are getting smaller and smarter. However, they are still trying to separate noise (typically from other LIDAR) and reality… but the demos look great. Second is the communication platform for V2I. There are many cloud solutions, private companies, universities and think tanks that all have ideas. Once this gets settled and safety standards are set, the pace for change will accelerate even faster.
It is always exciting to see vehicles that Goken has helped to create. I am excited that Goken’s focus on innovation is generating the momentum to make us a significant contributor to this new mobility.