Looking to the future

After ZF’s acquisition of TRW, the focus is returning to developing technologies to meet the demand for greater safety, increased vehicle automation and higher levels of efficiency

Any merger or acquisition is bound to have big implications for the businesses involved. When the announcement was made that ZF and TRW were bringing their companies together, it came as a surprise to many. But ZF’s acquisition of TRW does mean that the latter will be able to open its portfolio of technologies to a much wider audience: growing its active and passive safety technology division is a key target.

TRW is now known as ZF TRW, and Peter Lake, its vice-president of business development in the active and passive safety division, says: “TRW’s business is now a division of ZF, but during the integration process that we’re going through at the moment there are a couple of work streams that are associated with research and development and new product opportunities that remain important.

“So there’s a great deal of time and attention being spent on identifying what those opportunities are and narrowing them down to a shorter list of those that are most relevant, and then putting money behind them to bring them to fruition.”

Three mega-trends have already been identified as being most important: efficiency, automated driving and safety. And those are the areas that Lake is intent on securing a level of product and system leadership.

“For what was TRW, certainly two of those elements are still relevant: automated driving and safety, albeit within ZF there’s a much greater opportunity, a much larger canvas to be able to address,” he says.

It is in the area of efficiency that perhaps the group will most benefit from the greater scope that ZF’s takeover of TRW will bring. 

“With ZF, if you look at transmissions and hybrid and electric drives, there is an enormous power in this company to bring solutions in that area of efficiency forward as well,” says Lake.

But it is ZF TRW’s portfolio that could have the biggest impact, with technologies such as its S-Cam4 system and safety domain ECU helping to lead the way towards ever greater levels of automated driving.

S-Cam4 – a monocular camera – is expected to have two distinct applications: the first version will be aimed at the mass market with a new, more sensitive image sensor and a more powerful processor supplied by Mobileye. The second variation will be a high-end camera to aid semi-automated driving.

ZF TRW’s safety domain ECU will aid with data fusion as information is taken from numerous sensors around the vehicle to help draw a picture of the surroundings, so it can negotiate different driving scenarios.

The first-generation safety domain ECU is already used by BMW and comprises a 120MHz dual-core processor, Autosar 3.x, and has both Flexray and CANbus interfaces. 

The second generation is being developed and should enter production in 2017. It will offer far greater levels of processing power. The system will be based on an Autosar 4.x software platform, and use a 500MHz quad-core processor with 8MB of flash memory and 2MB of RAM.

tags: October 2015 ZF Connectivity