In the past 12 month, lighting and electronics major Hella has acquired important new business in the area of steering control modules. It is now further expanding its position as a major supplier of steering control modules, given that demand for modules for semi-automated driving (from Level 2 of driving automation) have increased. Around half of all new orders are for these kinds of modules now, says the company.
"We are offering our customers a scalable product – from Built-to-Print products to the fully assembled modules," says Frédéric Laure, vice-president head of Program Management Steering at Hella. This customised approach allows Hella to develop steering systems which are suitable for highly automated driving according to Level 4 today.
Hella has been producing steering control modules (Electronic Control Units, ECUs) since 2010 (pictured above). These not only form the basis for electrical power steering (EPS) and fuel efficiency, but also enable functions for automated driving, such as lane keeping assistance and automated parking. As per the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Level 4 (highly automated driving) does not require driver interaction in certain scenarios.
The Hella control modules are available in a fail-operational version to address these application scenarios. This means that in the event of a fault in the electronics, the system is not switched off, but the power steering assistance continues to function. "A reliable fail-operational control unit is essential to meet requirements in the field of automated driving in the future. In this respect, Hella is already well positioned today," says Ralf Kuhl, Head of Product Center Electric Power Steering at Hella.
The control unit in the fail-operational version also enables the implementation of steer-by-wire systems, in which the transmission of steering commands takes place by means of electrical impulses instead of a steering rod. This enables several functions such as a retractable steering wheel during automated driving mode. But other individualisation functions are also possible. For example, the steering behaviour could be individually adjusted to meet the driver's preferences.
Hella says it has further expanded its production capacities this year in order to fullfil the increasing customer requirements even faster. The company plans to produce the steering control modules not only in Germany and China, but also in Romania, Mexico, Brazil and India.
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