Driving the agenda

Driving the agenda

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By eeNews Europe

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 fulfil 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.

Hanns Windele: Are you looking to investigate different markets?

Klaus Meder: The Automotive Electronics division of Bosch is involved not just in automotive, but also engaged in different markets where we find synergies for our technology and components. When we see such an opportunity, we are not shy to introduce ‘speedboat’ start-ups that can go very fast in their market. We founded Bosch Sensortec, which takes the technology we have developed for the automotive market into consumer electronics.

Another example is our e-bike systems. We have also founded a company called Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions, where we are looking at sensors for the Internet of Things. Start-ups are very important because they bring in new ideas and have a fresh-eye approach. They are emotional and dynamic and can be a game-changer. We want to use this spirit in different ways: and so we are an investor, but we also have our own start-up culture with internal accelerators and incubators.

Hanns Windele: Do you think it is more difficult to do this in Germany than elsewhere?

Klaus Meder: Definitely. No question. It’s a case of mentality and availability of finance. It would improve things if we could change parts of our financing system – for example, allowing retirement funds to be invested in technology. But at the moment that is not possible.

That makes me sound critical. But actually, at the moment I am quite happy because three or four years ago we were saying that young people are not interested in working in technology – they only want to use it. Now, we have a situation where start-up communities, such as the hub in Berlin, are flourishing. There are others in Italy, Israel and India.

So I think that young people are increasingly becoming more entrepreneurial and more technically oriented. This is a good thing for Bosch and the automotive industry. But maybe political leaders such as Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande could work on being more open-minded about technology and more positive in terms of encouraging young people into technology.

Hanns Windele: Would you say that cross-functional development of technology is important to Bosch?

Klaus Meder: We are definitely a company that is driven by innovation in technology. We are on a journey to become more user-centric. The point of interest here for me is that you should not sell technology, but you should solve your customer’s problem.

Although I actually prefer the word ‘user’: the customer is the person who buys at the point-of-sale, and then there is the user, who will communicate with you the experience of the product. When you become more user-centric, you get very good success stories, such as the electric bike and the connected bike, where users are sharing their experience on-line and very quickly.

Hanns Windele: Is there one change in the market that would make this journey faster?

Klaus Meder: There are a lot of things that would make life easier, but in general what is needed is an improvement in quality systems. Quality is essential. No matter what the company size or location, this has to be unified and the target has to be zero defects. We have to become better at this. We have to improve quality and guarantee it.


President of Automotive Electronics at Bosch, Klaus Meder: "We want to be the ‘integrated’ IDM within Bosch to leverage vertical synergies"


Hanns Windele: What would help you to improve the quality of your electronics and chip design?

Klaus Meder: What we would like to have is an EDA system that is a seamless tool, from component layout up to system level. It should integrate analogue and digital, and we should be able to implement the test sequences and patterns in the same tool. Talking of quality, the tool should support standards such as ISO26262 for functional safety, and the tool should be qualified under this standard too.

It should be fast, with no waiting times and then it should also have a very good human-machine interface. I have seen designers go crazy with frustration because the best tool is useless if you don’t know how to use it. We are producing chips because we want to be the ‘integrated’ integrated device manufacturer within Bosch to leverage vertical synergies.

Hanns Windele: What will be the pace of electronic technology in automotive?

Klaus Meder: This is an important question. Because we are in the semiconductor industry, we all want to know how Moore’s Law will continue. We can see already that it is slowing down: we are not doubling the transistor density every 18 months any more. It is more like every two or even two-and-a-half years now.

We can also see that technology steps – like the 450mm wafer – are arriving later or delayed. So we are seeing a tendency to slow down on the silicon base. But our whole industry relies on increasing functionality while decreasing cost – the so-called learning curve. We all depend on that: but now the question is whether the next technology will kick in early enough and fast enough to keep this trend on-going.

Hanns Windele: Is physical location any longer relevant to the automotive industry?

Klaus Meder: The rise of the Chinese market was an overwhelming development that most people didn’t predict. I think there are many other markets that have the potential to develop in a similar way, such as ASEAN and Iran, or Russia. So I think that geography and geopolitical conditions matter for the development of the car markets.

But when it comes to China, the whole of the industrial base is moving away from the image of being copycats, and their clear target is to become an important player in the field of technology too. Not only that, they will have the financial power to make it happen. China will also have the skills to do it. Therefore we will start to see their influence increasing.

Hanns Windele: Do you need to have a presence in these locations?

Klaus Meder: It’s absolutely essential that you have a local presence: that you produce and develop locally so that you can respond to special conditions and needs.

Hanns Windele: In terms of environmental sustainability, what are the biggest challenges?

Klaus Meder: We need to make mobility environmentally acceptable and to have sustainable solutions. And it is important that we do this over the whole value-chain, starting with the manufacturing of the components, over the life span, right through until the recycling.

Quick-fire questions

What’s your idea of a dream holiday?

I like the oceans, so a nice hotel on a perfect beach with a new culture and cuisine to explore.

What are you reading at the moment?

Drive by Daniel H Pink, and I also like the mystery novels of Keigo Higashino.

What would you take with you to a desert island?

There’s never enough food on small tropical islands. Also a toolbox.

If you could be the CEO of a non-tech company, what would that be?

A hotel. I’m fascinated by making the user experience better.

It there were extra hours in the day, how would you spend it?

More sports, definitely.

How many digital devices do you have on you at the moment?

One. My Fitbit Activity Tracker. My watch is analogue and my phone is on my desk.

What is the one gadget you couldn’t live without?

A gadget is a gadget only because you can live without it.

What piece of technology would you donate to a museum?

I would give my timeline of 20 years of automotive gyro components from my office.


Hanns Windele is Vice President, Europe and India at Mentor Graphics.


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