Suppliers unveil the future at world car-tech conference

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DETROIT -- The upcoming ITS World Congress 2014 in Detroit will highlight the global transportation industry’s future of connectivity, safety and automation.

The Sept. 7-11 event, which is in Detroit for the first time, is a big step for suppliers, local and global, to introduce the technology that’s making up more of their bottom lines.

In some cases, these technologies push engineering to the furthest reaches of imagination, and others perform the simplest tasks overlooked in previous designs.

The global intelligent transportation market, including connected and autonomous cars, is projected to reach $33.75 billion by 2020, according to research by Dallas-based Markets and Markets.

With government regulation on the horizon and technology improving at a clip, service providers, suppliers and automakers are racing to capitalize by bringing their best ideas to market.

“This event comes at a unique point in time,” said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Intelligent Transportation Society of America. “Automakers are lining up to deliver greater and greater autonomy in their vehicles, so this has become an important conversation.”

Connectivity, or cars talking to each other and infrastructure, will be regulated in the near future, he said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has unveiled its plan to require cars to communicate wirelessly to warn drivers of danger and thwart dangerous situations with active safety systems.

Just two of the possible features that rely on vehicle-to-vehicle technology -- one that warns drivers if they don’t have enough time to make a left turn and another that urges them to stop if another car is about to run a red light -- could prevent 25,000 to 592,000 crashes and save 49 to 1,083 lives annually when the entire U.S. vehicle fleet has the technology, according to NHTSA’s report.

Tech demonstration

Supplier Visteon Corp. will showcase its human-machine interaction technology, including brake-light warning, slippery-condition-road warning and stopped-vehicle-ahead warning, during a ride-and-drive demonstration on Belle Isle.

“Our focus is vehicle-to-vehicle communications and how we enable opportunities in this space,” said Tim Yerdon, Visteon’s global director of innovation and design. “We’re enabling technology to seamlessly integrate into the driver and passenger experience.”

For suppliers, the event is a one-stop shop to interact with customers on tomorrow’s technology, unlike the Detroit auto show in January, Yerdon said.

“From a supplier perspective … this event really gives the opportunity to have the customers’ undivided attention,” he said. “While the auto show is great, it has a more consumer element.”

Safety expertise

IAV Automotive Engineering Inc. is using the World Congress to show customers its expertise in safety system engineering, said Chris Hennessy, vice president of engineering.

IAV will showcase an algorithm for an emerging braking system, the interface for that system and the braking controls design.

Hennessy said that while each supplier is focusing on only one aspect of a complete system, it’s working to integrate the whole package.

“Unlike a tier-one supplier, we’ll be there to demonstrate our tech knowledge, the intellectual property we have to integrate all aspects of the systems,” Hennessy said. “Everyone is coming at this from a different perspective, but we’re positioning ourselves to show that we can meet all the layers in developing these systems.”

Also demonstrating technology on Belle Isle will be Toyota-affiliated supplier Denso International America Inc., San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute, Michigan Technological University, Valeo North America Inc., Verizon Telematics, Delphi Automotive plc, General Motors Co. and many others.

Other automakers

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Meritor WABCO and others will demonstrate technologies at the Atwater Parking Garage near the Detroit riverfront.

Detroit-based advanced energy nonprofit NextEnergy will have demonstrations with Qualcomm Inc. and Chrysler Group LLC at its campus on Burroughs Street.

Jean Redfield, NextEnergy’s CEO, said the event is the right time to advance the conversation of what future mobility will look like and how policy decisions are made to support it.

“Technology is already driving consumer purchasing decisions,” Redfield said. “We’re getting a sense of what the future may bring, but we need to make sure the policy and infrastructure issues are met.”

Policy discussion

On Sept. 7, the conference will host a policy roundtable to tackle transportation issues centered on technology.

Robert Slimp, CEO of Kansas City-based infrastructure construction firm HNTB Corp., will keynote the policy roundtable, which will also include a moderated discussion.

“When are we going to have the infrastructure to rely on these technologies as the norm?” Redfield said. “This is important, getting all these people together to explore what’s possible.”

Cobo Center will host the conference portion of the event, which will have nearly 100 sessions ranging from improving traffic safety to policy issues to business models.

GM CEO Mary Barra, Bill Ford, and several other top executives will keynote several panels during the conference.

“There’s going to be a lot of thought leadership,” Belcher said. “These technologies are very real, it’s happening, and the market is being created as we speak. This is the most important conference for the future of transportation.”

You can reach Dustin Walsh at dwalsh@crain.com.


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