The potential for electronics is huge in automobiles, and the rate of proliferation continues to rise dramatically each year. Analysts predict that in just a few years, the value of electronics in cars is destined to reach 40%. In order to learn more on this front, we recently interviewed Linos Jacovides, director of Research Labs at Delphi Automotive Systems.
ED: Although electronics have pervaded every aspect of the vehicle, automakers have yet to realize their full potential. As a tier-one supplier, how do you propose to influence that progress?
Jacovides: We've gone a long way toward implementing electronics in areas of the vehicle where customers don't see them, such as stability enhancement control technologies and adaptive cruise control with radar. Today, we're moving toward implementing the consumer electronic items that the customer will interface with directly, like hands-free cell phones, Internet access, navigation systems, video games, and more.
To fully realize the potential of electronics, we will have to continue to find ways in which we can integrate these systems into the vehicle safely. In terms of interface, we want customers to be able to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.
ED: When do you think automotive electronics will become as competitive as consumer electronics?
Jacovides: From a cost and performance standpoint, I believe that automotive electronics are already more competitive than consumer electronic goods. To earn and to keep the OEM business, automotive electronic suppliers must meet very aggressive cost targets. They also have to demonstrate that their technologies will last over the life cycle of a vehicle. This cycle can be seven to eight years, or more.
ED: Despite progress, electronics aren't a core competency at automakers worldwide. How do you plan to change that and make electronics engineering part of the vehicle system from the start, and not the last thing to be considered?
Jacovides: In general, 30% to 40% of the purchased components for a mid-size sedan are electrical and electronic components and systems. Any automaker that wants to succeed in today's market must have electronics as a core competency.
One main difference between the vehicle design work of five years ago and the design work done today is the upfront work of electronics. We're doing this upfront work for future models today. OEMs also are making a real effort to have a standardized architecture, as we're seeing through activities such as the automotive multimedia interface collaboration (AMI-C ) consortium, formed in 1998 to develop a set of common specifications for a multimedia interface to auto electronic systems.
ED: What will it take to make the auto electronics industry better organized around standards so that more suppliers will take a crack at the market?
Jacovides: As I mentioned, the work being done under the auspices of AMI-C will help with this standardization that, in turn, will help more suppliers get into this expanding market. Additionally, initiatives like Covisint will provide even greater access and cost reductions. Delphi Automotive plans to use Covisint, the global Internet exchange formed by General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Renault, and Nissan, as the primary exchange for conducting electronic transactions with customers and suppliers.
ED: What steps are you taking to deliver technology's promise to auto drivers? What will be the implications of this revolution?
Jacovides: There are still many great challenges to conquer before the auto industry can assert that it's delivering technology's full promise to the drivers. Despite all of the tremendous progress that we have made in the past 30 years or so, we still haven't created a vehicle that has virtually limitless fuel economy, zero emissions, and total safety under all driving conditions.
We're working on enablers that will help us move closer to this ideal state, such as improving design processes for electronic systems, creating robust "smart" sensing, and creating an advanced E/E architecture. One example of how we're translating these elements to real performance is our Integrated Safety System, or ISS. This advanced portfolio of 50 technologies will provide drivers with enhanced protection throughout the entire driving experience.