ZF is marching full bore into electrification and e-mobility, and its proposed $7 billion acquisition of Wabco, which it hopes will be finalized in 2020, will further advance that mission, Dan Williams, director of ADAS and autonomy, told assembled press members during the company’s media briefing on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta.
“The question becomes who is going to lead in this area,” he said. “One solution is passenger cars … but passenger cars have very specific problems.”
Williams noted that while cars spend much of their time on urban streets, leading to complex algorithms as systems try to identify and analyze safety concerns such as bouncing balls that may have children following them, commercial vehicles “spend two-thirds of their time on highways, going straight and at consistent speeds.”
Williams noted that this makes “commercial vehicles the Goldilocks scenario of automation.”
The acquisition of Wabco will bring braking solutions into ZF’s expanding portfolio of e-mobility and electrification products.
“With the acquisition of Wabco, ZF is expected to be a full systems provider,” Williams said.
The director also touched on the next generation of ZF sensors that will launch in 2020 as a continuation of the company’s See, Think, React mission statement.
“It will allow us to do a better job of identifying pedestrians [and other objects],” he said. In addition to existing sensors upgrades, ZF will be adding short-range sensors for the sides of vehicles to better help see blind spots, including identification of bicyclists and pedestrians.
The company will also unveil its OnTraX product next year. OnTraX will be added to its ReAX transmission product. Engaging at cruise speeds, OnTraX will use cameras and sensors to help reduce unintentional lane departures.
Lane departures are the cause of 32% of all accidents, Williams said, and cost roughly $53,000 per incident. OnTraX uses short-range radar and adds lane change and city drive assist. When integrated with ReAX, the system can be programmed to deliver a haptic warning to the driver if he/she is approaching an obstacle or vehicle in his blindspot. The system can also be programmed to urge the driver away the obstacle.
The new products are part of a $13.9 billion investment ZF is making over the next five years in autonomous driving and e-mobility efforts as part of its Zero Vision initiative. Zero Vision set a goal of reducing accidents and emissions to zero.
“With our proposed acquisition of Wabco, we are showing our sincere commitment to the market,” Tomas Bozek, senior vice president of commercial vehicle technology, said.
Christian Feldhouse, head of truck & van driveline technology for North America, said ZF now has more than 700,000 electrified products installed in global vehicles, more than 300,000 of those coming in 2019. Those products cover a range of vehicle components and include the CeTrax lite Central Drive, AxTrax lite axle drive, CeTrax Central Drive, TraXon Hybrid transmission, AxTrax truck electric axle, and the AxTrax Ave bus electric axle.
ZF also announced a launch date for its new PowerLine transmission. The 8-speed transmission with torque converter will enter global production in late 2020 with North American launch with an unnamed original equipment manufacturer in the first quarter of 2021.
Loaded with features such as neutral at stop, parklock at 50,000 pounds, auto park, adaptive starting gear, quick lock up, smart engine brake, hill start assist, and stop-start assist, the automatic transmission will offer 30% faster acceleration and a 10% better fuel economy than a 6-speed transmission, Feldhouse said.
PowerLine will be available for vehicles in Class 3 through Baby 8s, with up to 1,000 pounds-foot of available torque and a 57,000-pound gross combined weight rating.
“They drive like a car, but perform like a truck,” Feldhouse said.
ZF PowerLine has been offered for more than 12 years for passenger cars and light trucks, with more than 15 million units produced.