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Surveys spur Valeo's lane warning system

Too often, innovations are driven by technological opportunity rather than market needs.

That can leave companies with pioneering solutions in search of a market. So French supplier Valeo is encouraging innovation for the customer. It conducted a survey to identify areas that benefit customers and match technological potential within Valeo.

The study included an analysis of 150 technological trends and 70 in-depth interviews with industry experts, plus workshops and interviews within Valeo.

Valeo's domain approach aims its engineering effort at satisfying market needs. Domains are not product groups or single technologies but are ways of looking at the market from an automaker and consumer perspective, says Martin Haub, Valeo vice president of r&d and product marketing.

Valeo believes vehicle manufacturers want suppliers to deliver fully integrated systems or modules incorporating visibility-related functions.

Teaming with Iteris

In an example of its domain approach, Valeo this year agreed to partner with Iteris, a U.S. software and sensor developer, to develop a system called AutoVue. The system tracks visible road lane markings ahead and warns the driver if it detects an unintentional lane departure. AutoVue uses ultrasonic, infrared and radar sensors for 360-degree surveillance around the vehicle.

Valeo expects that future generations of AutoVue will be able to detect obstacles, road signs and changes in weather and road conditions. That could reduce the effort for a driver, says Valeo. The linked sensors also form a basis for future collision-warning and avoidance systems.

Haub said the domain approach that helped create AutoVue 'makes us best able to take advantage of our strengths in products, technologies and engineering to create new and better systems. The aim is to create a global solution, whether it be visibility, comfort or safety.'

Valeo's domains 'encompass a dedicated group of products, technologies and functions that all contribute ... to the same objective through integration in a system or module,' he said.

`Decentralized organization'

A coordinator at corporate level manages the domains. The approach means an additional layer over the existing organization of product-based branches, which remains unchanged.

'Valeo is a decentralized organization with branches, and it is going to remain that way,' Haub said.

But he says the domain approach 'brings together the full expertise of the Valeo group and encourages synergies across branches.'

Valeo calls one domain 'seeing and being seen.' Because of growing traffic and demand for vehicle and passenger safety, Valeo is focusing on a vehicle's immediate environment.

So, for example, Valeo's separate products for lighting, wiping and obstacle detection can address a single market need.

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