2012 Western India Special: The real promise of auto electronics

To offer insights into this exciting sector that is headed for explosive growth, Autocar Professional organised the first seminar in association with the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) and the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries & Agriculture (MCCIA) at the Auto Cluster in Chinchwad, Pune, on October 19.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 01 Nov 2012 Views icon3695 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
2012 Western India Special: The real promise of auto electronics
In India’s automotive sector, electronics is a hot-button issue. It has implications for vehicle performance, safety and emissions. If India is to be a powerhouse in this field, mastering automotive electronics is absolutely crucial. No wonder, a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers has forecast that the automotive parts sector in India will be worth close to a $100 billion in 2020, with 17 percent of that business coming from the electrical and automotive electronics.

To offer insights into this exciting sector that is headed for explosive growth, Autocar Professional organised the first seminar in association with the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) and the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries & Agriculture (MCCIA) at the Auto Cluster in Chinchwad, Pune, on October 19.

Sponsored by component major Continental, the well-attended forum saw industry stalwarts as the panelists speaking on the theme of ‘Opportunities and Challenges in Automotive Electronics’ – Dr Markus Hildenbrand, MD, Bosch Automotive Electronics India (who delivered the keynote address); Dr Arun Jaura, VP – technology and head of engineering centre, Eaton Corporation; Subhendu Ghosh, VP – global delivery, engineering & design, Tata Technologies; Randeep Singh Khokar, head – electrical and electronics engineering (Passenger Car Business Unit), Tata Motors; and Shailendra Goswami, chairman and MD, Pushkaraj Engineering Enterprises, who is also the head of MCCIA's automotive components cluster and an entrepreneur in his own right.

Earlier, welcoming the speakers, Hormazd Sorabjee, editor, Autocar India, said that automotive electronics has played a key role in making cars a pleasure to drive, safer than before and more eco-friendly too.

Dr Hildenbrand set the tone for the seminar detailing the various trends in automotive electronics. The sector, he said, is being driven by increasing consumer demand and government regulation concerning safety and zero emissions and finally, market-relevant solutions. Giving a statistical snapshot of the Indian automobile market, he said sales are slated to cross six million in 2013 and expected to be 10 million by 2019. All of which means good pickings for the auto electronics sector considering 20 percent of the average cost of a vehicle is accounted for by electrical and electronics content, including software.

In his presentation, Dr Hildenbrand pointed out that electricals and electronic parts (OE and aftermarket) will constitute around 18 percent of the component market in the year 2020. From a market size of $30 billion in 2009, the auto electronics market in India is estimated to rise to $69 billion by 2015 and $119 billion by 2020 (see graph, above right).

Future trends

Speaking on upcoming trends, he said one should expect more electronics per car given the growing consumer demand for efficient, safer and multimedia-enabled vehicles along with government demand for expected legislation on fuel efficiency and safety systems in the near future (which will trigger an increase in the number of ECUs per vehicle). At present, high-end vehicles contain 70 or more control modules with over 400 components.

Giving examples of the dynamic role that electronics is playing in the auto sector, Dr Hildenbrand said this can be seen in a host of products like a tyre pressure monitoring systems, GPS, battery management, parking support systems, lane departure warning, and electronic power steering, to mention but a few. With demand for this on the rise, industry should be better prepared. There will come a time, he said, when these technologies will mature and prices will fall, bringing them to a wider group of motorists.

While the electronics sector is characterised by regular growth and is less volatile in nature, he said that the key challenge for the sector is design complexity. This will mean reducing system and software complexity, improving the eco-system for electronics manufacturing, moving to an affordable and scalable, modular product architecture and developing the necessary skillsets, an area that can act as a roadblock.

Finally, Dr Hildenbrand said the sector should leverage synergies between OEs and vendors to exploit the opportunity and deliver more value to the customer.

The impact of mechatronics

In his address, Dr Arun Jaura of Eaton Technologies dwelt on the emerging area of automotive mechatronics, a new field of specialisation emerging from the combination of mechanical, electrical, computer and applied control engineering.

He said that the issue is particularly complex in the auto sector given that vehicles operate in the most rugged and hostile of environments. The influence of electronics will be seen in a range of sectors that include clean emissions, better fuel economy, drive quality and safety, infotainment and comfort.

The importance of the developments in the auto sector can be best understood, Dr Jaura said, if one considers that the aviation industry now looks to the automotive sector for ways to handle cost-related issues. He also spoke about Eaton’s achievements referring specifically to the supercharger for engines developed by Eaton which not only provides better performance but gives five percent more fuel efficiency; he also dwelt on hydraulic hybrids and battery management systems.

In the electrical and infotainment space, Dr Jaura alluded to the impact of CANBUS, on-board diagnostics and telematics. He also highlighted the need for particular talent that has a good understanding of mechatronics.

Summing up his presentation, he said the potential growth opportunities for auto electronics companies in India lie in engine controls to meet future emission and fuel economy norms, regenerative braking, automatic transmission, onboard diagnostics, zoned air-conditioning, electronic stability control, hybrids and fleet management.

The challenges in India, he remarked, would comprise OEMs demanding off-the-shelf, ready-to-use components, low priced and robust electronic components suitable for Indian conditions, and trained skills with a good understanding of mechatronics.

Electronics expertise to help drive growth

Subhendu Ghosh, vice-president, global delivery, engineering and design, Tata Technologies, spoke about how the industry has transitioned from the mechanical to the electronics of which he said was a part. He said the hallmark of a successful auto company will be one that has gained control over auto electronics sphere in order to gain an edge over its rivals.

Ghosh spoke about the impact of electronics on safety, identifying it as an area with much promise and potential. Going forward, he said, 35 percent of a car’s cost and 80 percent of automotive innovation will come from the electronics sector.

Doing a little bit of crystal-ball gazing, Ghosh said that by the year 2020, electric hybridisation may be commonplace but highlighted the need for efficiency and provision of extra power need for drive-by-wire technology.

Ghosh was keen to speak on the future of active safety in the auto sector saying that this would gain increasing importance in the years to come. This would translate into products that include collision- avoidance systems, brake assist, cruise control, side object detection systems and driver alertness monitoring. Speaking about infotainment, he made a reference to Kia’s UVo2 that is smart-phone enabled and adds no cost to ownership. He also made references to the Google Driverless car, citing it as an example of innovation that will impact the automotive industry. Other examples include Ford’s SYNCLink-enabled National Public Radio and General Motors’ MyLink infotainment system.

Driving the future

In his address, Randeep Singh Khokar, head – electrical & electronics engineering (Passenger Cars Business Unit), Tata Motors, drew on his working experience, earlier with Mercedes-Benz and now with Tata. He also referred to a Frost & Sullivan study that said cars need an estimated 200-300 million lines of code, thereby signifying the complexity of the automotive electronics.

He said that the need to meet emission norms has underlined the move to greater role of electronics in the car. Explaining the role of electronics in cars, he said that an average car operates with 30 ECUs while a premium car functions on 80 to 90 ECUs and over 300 sensors.

The session closed with a speech by Shailendra Goswami, head of Pune-based Pushkaraj Engineering Enterprises, who said that by 2020-21, 40 percent of India’s automotive turnover of Rs 550,000 crore will be accounted for by electronics. It is an opportunity that cannot be neglected, he said. He said that with the Indian vehicle market not being an owner-driven one, there would be some disadvantages in making electronics available to more people. Other issues in the Indian context, he said, are price sensitivity and training and cultural issues. It is important to ensure, Goswami said, that electronics has to perform given that it has many safety-related implications. In addition, performance to specifications and the compatibility of Tier 2 suppliers in the manufacturing and innovation process is a key issue.

Defining the roadblocks, Goswami added that “training and infrastructure will play a major role in the adaptaion of any new technological leap forward. Good ideas are as good only when they are executed.”

The presentations were followed by a Q&A session in which speakers answered questions ranging from the topic of the session to the feasibility of electric vehicles in India and government policy.

One key observation was the need for miles of testing for automotive electronic solutions in order to ensure that the electronics solutions are fool-proof. As far as infotainment systems go, Khokar highlighted the need to know accurately what features an infotainment system must have so that customers do not feel left out. Ghosh of Tata Technologies said being able to join plastics to aluminium and steel is a major challenge that companies in the sector must address as they seek to play a greater role in the electronics field.

All the speakers also agreed that there is a vast opportunity for automotive electronics in the two-wheeler industry as the majority of two-wheelers sold today are powered by carburettor- fed engines unlike fuel injection technology.

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