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TRW: Design safer auto brake parts for Chinese market

FVIER Auto brake& transmission / 2013-06-22

TRW owns a high reputation in the filed of automotive safety products globally. In order to meet the growing demand of Chinese consumers, the company is managing to provide automotive safety products with lower cost and better performance. Meanwhile, TRW is pushing ahead with the integration of safety technology and make a lot of achievements. Recently, Jeff Shaya, TRW’s Technical Director of Asia Pacific Brake Systems Engineering and Manfred Meyer, TRW’s Vice President of Global Application accepted an interview with Gasgoo.com and shared us with their advanced technologies and achievements in the brake system and integration of safety.

Gasgoo:Automobiles' brake system is critical to automobile safety. As the world’s leading manufacturer of auto safety products, what experiences have you had in the brake products and what advantages do TRW have over its competitors in terms of brake system design?

Manfred Meyer: TRW has 50 years of experience starting from the first braking products that have ever been used in cars. Year by year, we learn more and more what to do. We have become number one in the field of acceleration and electrical park brakes; we are also one of the strongest system integrators with stability control and ABS. We provide full integrated knowledge on what has to be done, and we can adapt our knowledge and components to every vehicle in the world , from the entrance level vehicle up to the top level vehicle.

If you look at our competitors, they only have a selection of our brake products. The other advantage we have is that we also have other components, like radars, video cameras, steering systems and active controls. Braking is an integrated functionality. For example, the automatic emergency braking, which require interaction between the radar, video camera and brakes, because you have to brake without driver input. This interface requires long-lasting development, which we have been doing for years.

Gasgoo: Since your team has abundant knowledge reserve in the brake system, what measures have you taken to provide the right products to meet the local consumers’ needs?

Jeff Shaya: In general terms, if we look at the technology of cars worldwide, we see some differences. But, the differences are much smaller than the commonalities. Fundamentally, what customers really care about are things like performance, reliability and quality. The expectations for those three elements sometimes differ a little bit depending on the market. For example, if we look at the roads in Germany, we will see people driving 250 km per hour sometimes. But that's not something that happens in China. In China, customers are very sensitive to the noise of the car. Very often, people are driving very slowly, and if there's a little bit of noise, they hear it. Nevertheless, what's very important to every customer that sits in a car is that the brakes have to feel secure to them. If he's driving and something moves in front of him or her, the driver needs to be able to know when his foot or her foot goes on to the brake pedal, the car will stop securely. That's something you can feel. When your foot goes on the brake pedal, the car has to be able to respond to that feeling. It's very important that the car feels reliable and has great performance. TRW is a brake system supplier. We know how to define and how to implement brake systems that can provide this can kind of feeling and this kind of performance for the driver.

One of the things that is clearly beginning to happen in China now is that the consumer is growing up with cars. Initially, most of the people driving cars in China were driving a car for the first time, not having so much experience and not having a lot of expectations. But more and more people are driving cars owned by their parents today. That's the beginning of people who grew up with an expectation of what a car should do. So today, expectations of the driver in China, is extremely high. It's as high in this region as anywhere else in the world. It's an expectation of perfection. If there's a noise, a bumpiness, an abnormality, a warning light or any of these things, they recognize it and feel unhappy. This creates a lot of pressure on the engineering team and the production team of TRW to deliver something that performs very consistently, has good performance, good reliability and good quality.

Manfred Meyer: The Chinese automotive market is very dynamic. The expectation of the end consumer covers different vehicles and different segments and the vehicle manufacturers expect us to adapt brake systems in a very short period of time. In order to do so, we have to own the ability to collect products and architecture from our product family, which we develop for global usage. We have products, including brake calipers or ABS stability control systems, which we can apply to high-level luxury cars somewhere in the world and can also apply to similar cars in China in a very short period of time. We have the knowledge and the product family so we can pick and choose the right product for the right market, the right vehicle and the right customer. The Chinese market is very dynamic and in order to keep up with its speed, we have to be very dynamic.

Gasgoo:Over the past few years, cases of automobile manufactures recalling braking products due to design defects have been numerous. What measures has TRW taken to insure the reliability of its braking systems? Before releasing these products, which independent institutes are responsible for TRW’s performance testing?

Jeff Shaya: There have been brake recalls all over the world involving different car manufacturers and suppliers. Recalls are a good thing, as it means that even after a product is designed, developed, finalized and built, and the car it is in is delivered and operated, there are still processes in place to monitor the vehicles. If it is found to really be a defect, whether it is a design defect or a manufacturing defecting, actions are taken to ensure the safety of the end consumer. The basic process of the recall is not going to change. Even after a product is delivered we continue to watch it and see how it performs.

What's important though is that the development process becomes more and more reliable over time. If there is a weakness in the product, the weakness is seen in the development stage, not in the manufacturing stage. We want to avoid any of our products being recalled, so we fix the issues during development. If you ask what can we do to basically identify any weaknesses of the product during the development stage, that comes down to a couple of things.

The first is having good, capable engineers, people who know what they're doing. And the other important thing is having investments in their training and development, so that they're able to work in the most effective way. That is very important to us, as it means giving them the right tools. Likewise, we're investing in a new technical center that will increase the capacity and capability of our engineering team here, which will help us have the right tools for design, simulation, analysis, prototyping and testing.

Jeff Shaya: It is very important that we are capable to do the testing ourselves in a reliable way, so that our customers can be confident. The most important ingredient of any customer-supplier relationship is trust. If a customer is going to build a car and put TRW brakes in it, he has to trust that TRW is able to validate the product with integrity. If that relationship of trust doesn't exist, then nothing happens.

Manfred Meyer: We work within a system which we call a 'V model', a typical industry standard. We've adopted this standard to our braking needs. We understand global requirements and we know how we have to design a product. After we design the product, we do full system testing. TRW is one of the first suppliers in the world to do full vehicle simulation. From our customer we get their overall vehicle data. We put it into a vehicle interloop simulator, where we can simulate what the vehicle is doing with our products. We measure and analyze what our product is doing on the car. We then run all potential maneuvers for thousands times, sometimes we might detect a failure. We are able to detect these failures in a virtual simulation, without having a car. This is something TRW has developed on its own with external institutes. This vehicle interloop simulation capability can detect failures with products before they go to the customer. Out of this, we have design rules that we apply globally. Whenever we see an issue, we adhere to these design standards.

Gasgoo:TRW's Asian engineering team offers technological support for many automobile OEMs, TRW factories and TRW joint ventures. Could you give us a brief introduction of TRW's engineering team? What technology does it mainly support?

Jeff Shaya: TRW's engineering team in China today has about 500 for all products, with about 150 engineers working on brake systems. We've built a technical center that can support more than a 1,000 staff, so that's our vision for expanding the team. We expect to have as many as three hundred brake engineers in the next few years. This team in China is part of a global engineering team. Just for example, we're based in Shanghai. We work for a team based in Germany, which employs 1,500 brake engineers globally. It's a global team. The importance of this is that we can share technology. If our man in Shanghai says that needs to understand some piece of technology that's on a Volkswagen car that's in Germany, he makes a phone call. We're part of one global team, technology and knowledge are being shared across the globe. Our primary responsibility in China is supporting our customer and factories here. Today, we have a total of six brake plants in China that we're supporting with our full set of brake system products that we've got globally. It’s the same basic technology. We can build the same basic part here that we're building in North America, Mexico, Europe or Brazil. We're building global products to one specification. The value in that is that we have many customers that want to build their car here, but also want to build the car in Europe or somewhere else. They want one common design. That's the essence of what we're able to provide.

Gasgoo:Following the development of electronic technology, EBS (Electric Braking System) products have become increasingly popular. When compared with traditional braking systems, what advantage does EBS have?

Manfred Meyer: With electronic brake systems, TRW is able to integrate functions which were previously done mechanically. It started when we had ABS, where we replaced a mechanical valve. We eliminated this valve and integrated this function into ABS. It overall resulted in a gain in safety. With electronic brake systems, we can add more functions. For example, if you hit the brake pedal very hard, you're looking for maximum brake pressure and minimal stopping resistance. In order to get that, there is a device in the brake which gives you maximum pressure, which we designed for the case that we did not have stability control. With stability control, we were able to integrate this function into the electronic system. It saves costs of five to seven euros. We can integrate more and more functions which reduces cost and improve safety. Electronic brake systems offer lower costs and additional safety functions.

Gasgoo:TRW believes in the integration of safety technology. What achievements have you made in the field of safety technology integration? Which of your products are evidence of this?

Jeff Shaya: TRW has had a number of firsts. For example, we can look at things like electric park brakes. TRW introduced the first electric park brake. Now we see them in 15 percent of the market in China and 20 some percent of the market in Europe. Other things TRW has been a leader in developing cost optimization, covering things like ABS and electronic stability control, and by developing technologies which has allowed costs to be lower, thereby making them more available. We're the first to integrate pressure sensors and inertial sensors on electronic stability control, as well ECU and ADS. These various technologies have helped to reduce costs of electronic stability control and make it more available. That's an enabler for making things like electronic stability control standard equipment in Europe and in North America. It will probably be standard equipment in China in the next few years.

We were the first to integrate Active Controlled seatbelts, which are triggered by the stability control system. Knowing how braking works, we were able to integrate the signal from the sensor to the active control retractor. If one is in a dangerous driving system, it will tighten the seatbelt automatically. TRW did this first on the Mercedes S-Class. Now a lot of other cars have it. We also integrated radar video camera signals with braking. We have developed a video camera which warns the driver in the case he was not braking fast enough or early enough. TRW possesses integrated braking, steering, seatbelts and camera technology]all together. This knowledge is why TRW is best positioned to do automatic emergency braking in the future.