FRANKFURT — Autoliv, the world's largest airbag supplier, announced Sept. 14 that it may spin off its electronics division into a stand-alone maker of electronics for self-driving vehicles. The Swedish supplier also formed a partnership last month with seat-maker Adient to design airbags and seat belts for these vehicles.
Autoliv CEO Jan Carlson, 57, discussed these and other initiatives with Staff Correspondent David Sedgwick last month during the Frankfurt auto show.
Q: You've just announced a partnership with Adient to design safety systems for self-driving vehicles. Why is this necessary?
A: If the compartment is changing to let the driver and passengers sit in different positions, we need to redesign the airbag. To have a partnership to integrate this is an advantage.
With the announcement, you showed the audience an illustration of an airbag that would shroud the driver's head and upper torso like a hood. Are you developing this?
We are looking into it. We want to see how we can do that, to make airbags that are compliant with passengers in different positions. This requires a different structure for the seat. That's why the opportunity to work with Adient is very interesting.
Do you want an opportunity to optimize the seat and airbags before the design is frozen?
The biggest benefit is that you can develop the airbag together with the seat structure so that you can have seamless development. Otherwise, it would take longer and be more costly. As partners, we can jointly propose this to the automakers. I think it will be compelling.
ZF and Faurecia announced a similar partnership this year. Did you feel a sense of urgency?
We see a real need for this. There is a market for it, and customers are interested. If you can do it faster and better together, why not?
When do you and Adient expect your seat-and-airbag designs to enter production?
We haven't laid out any specific plans to target certain customers.
Autoliv also is developing sensors, software and electronic control units for self-driving cars. When will you produce them for Level 4 cars that can drive themselves for extended trips?
Right now, we produce components for Level 1 or Level 2 vehicles equipped with collision-avoidance brake systems. Revenue from Level 4 and Level 5 would start flowing on the software side in 2021.