2012 Electronics Special: Automotive Infotronics eyes global CV business

. The company’s repertoire includes a unique CAN-based electronic instrument cluster with on-board data storage and diagnostics capability, ruggedised control units for front and rear loads in CVs, on-board vehicle tracking and reporting units for telematics, current sensors and fuse and relay centres.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 02 Jul 2012 Views icon5758 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Established as a joint venture between two of the biggest players in the commercial vehicle segment in India, Ashok Leyland and Continental AG, Automotive Infotronics Ltd (AIL) has big shoes to fill. The Chennai-based company, however, is going about its business in style and coming out of its parents’ shadows by doing what it knows best – innovation.

AIL has a very clear agenda. It aims to develop future-ready products by leveraging Ashok Leyland’s market knowledge and Continental’s technical acumen to become an innovation centre. So far, it has been right on track. The company’s repertoire includes a unique CAN-based electronic instrument cluster with on-board data storage and diagnostics capability, ruggedised control units for front and rear loads in CVs, on-board vehicle tracking and reporting units for telematics, current sensors and fuse and relay centres. More products, aimed at the global commercial vehicle scene, are in the pipeline.



Able and willing

Speaking exclusively to Autocar Professional, Dr Arunkumar M Sampath, head – marketing and sourcing, threw light on some of the challenges the company had to overcome in order to meet growing customer expectations.

Asked how such a young company has able to attract the right kind of knowledge, Dr Sampath says, “Though we started just a few years ago, we provide unique opportunities to young recruits in full product development cycles. Of course, the branding value that the JV partners bring also facilitates in attracting talent from the bottom of the chain to the top. The challenges, however, were in the initial stages in convincing new recruits to join an organisation with little infrastructure and a tight budget. This has subsequently been overcome.”

Expectation, however, has been a silent spectator to AIL’s growth so far. “Over the last four years, AIL has been transitioning from the start-up phase into maturity phase. Accordingly, challenges were encountered while moving away from the business orders from our parent company to third-party customers,” says Dr Sampath.

Specific products bring about specific problems too. “In the case of the telematics on-board units, we have identified certain potential customers for retrofit of the unit with specific requirements such as fuel sensing and pilferage. The biggest challenge is in accommodating build-to-build variations in fuel tanks, limitations on fuel sensing capabilities, and the development of weather-proof and tamper-proof systems,” he says.

AIL has been pressing both its existing and new customers about the need to switch from mechanical parts to software and electronically controlled devices. Dr Sampath adds, “We need to convince our customers on the need to switch over from mechanical systems to advanced electronics systems, emphasising on overall cost benefits, higher reliability and performance. We’ve been careful in positioning this product with application in M&HCVs on both buses and trucks, keeping in mind our competitor’s eye on the pie.”

The kind of drastic reduction in mechanical parts the company aims to achieve would directly contribute to the rise in the electronisation of its products and with it, a high number of sensors. “Our products are primarily new-generation cost-effective electronics solutions which help the end user improve performance, reliability and efficiency. Our products already reflect this. For instance, our multiplex wiring system significantly reduces the amount of wiring harness, fuses and relays, has better diagnostic options and helps reduce operating costs. The fuse and relay centre is a modular product with resettable fuses that can accommodate multiple current ratings in the vehicle. Its compact size makes it possible to fit it either in the cabin or on the chassis,” he continues.



Despite this, AIL concentrates on easing the human-machine interface. “We focus on easy interface between man and machine. Right from the product design state, this option is planned in discussion with the customer,” says Dr Sampath.

Future connectivity

Talking about the future, DrSampath says that in-vehicle and inter-vehicle communication with last-mile connectivity will be the name of the game. The company has some key innovations in the pipeline for this very purpose. “AIL has been cognizant of this need. Our on-board telematics unit will evolve from its basic track and trace functions at present and include additional features such as fuel monitoring and pilferage control, trip optimisation, over the air software upgrade, remote monitoring and vehicle prognostics and diagnostics,” concludes DrSampath.

KARTHIK H
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