China pushes autonomous driving ahead

By Paul Welitzkin and Hezi Jiang in Detroit | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-01-11 11:53
China pushes autonomous driving ahead
The competition to develop self-driving vehicles is also creating opportunities for auto suppliers. On Tuesday two Chinese companies - Yanfeng Automotive Interiors and Nexteer Automotive - unveiled new initiatives at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to tap into the burgeoning market.
Yanfeng, a leading vehicle interior component maker, is attempting to answer the question: What can we do in a car if we no longer have to drive?

"We are creating the next living space," said Johannes Roters, CEO of Yanfeng.

The company introduced the Experience in Motion demonstrator 2017 (XiM17), a vehicle equipped with an interior that is designed to shift between four modes: driving, family, meeting and lounge, allowing for different ways of engaging.

With a touch of a button for meeting mode, the driver's seat goes back and the front passenger seat rotates, turning the car into a face-to-face working space with a fold-out table in the middle.

In the lounge mode, both front seats move back to create legroom. In the rear is a refrigerator for drinks, and a vehicle control touch panel that is integrated into the floor console and allows control of the car while relaxing.

The XiM17 was developed by designers and engineers from Yanfeng's technical centers in China, Germany and the US. The seats were produced in China with the rest of the car made and assembled in Michigan.

Yanfeng was set up a year and a half ago as a joint venture between Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems Co, which is owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp, and US-based Johnson Controls. Headquartered in Shanghai, Yanfeng has manufacturing plants and technical centers in 18 countries and more than 30,000 employees globally, including at several facilities in Michigan.

Nexteer and Continental AG agreed to form a joint venture focused on the advancement of motion control systems for automated driving.

The joint venture will combine Nexteer's advanced steering and driver assistance technologies with Continental's portfolio of automated driving and advanced braking technologies.

Nexteer, which supplies steering components to car manufacturers and is majority owned by China's AVIC Automotive, and Continental, a leading automotive and tire supplier, will each hold a 50 percent stake in the venture. It will be based in Michigan and is expected to become operational in six months.

Frank Lubischer, senior vice-president of global engineering and chief technology officer for Nexteer, said industry innovation is driving partnerships like this one.

"Collaboration is the ingredient we need to keep up with the pace of innovation," said Lubischer. "I think many of the autonomous vehicles that are now part of testing programs that have been announced here at the show could be available (to the public) as soon as next year."

Lubischer said Nexteer and Continental will focus on integrating state-of-the-art electronic brake and steering systems for improved safety in automated driving.

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