Visteon argues for more centralized controls

To make progress in selling its augmented reality head-up display, Visteon needed automakers to adopt centralized control of electronic features.

Visteon Corp. is ready to start selling more head-up display systems, including augmented- reality systems that target future autonomous vehicles, plus a more modest, mass-market head-up display designed to cost manufacturers less than $100.

But first, the auto industry must change the way it develops electronic features.

To make advanced technology systems work together — for instance infotainment and instrument clusters, plus data from multiple cameras, lidar and radar — vehicle features must be integrated through a centralized computer, said Markus Schupfner, Visteon’s chief technology officer.

And to do that, those systems ideally need to be developed under the same organizational umbrella, he said. That would be a change from developing different systems in different silos.

Schupfner: “The OEMs have to adapt.”

“The OEMs have to adapt in terms of their structure, in terms of their setup towards this new technology, as two or more domains get integrated and play together,” Schupfner said this month at the Citi 2017 Global Technology Conference in New York.

Schupfner said the industry is changing, with the trend toward centralization. He forecasts more centralization in terms of controlling vehicle features through a single computer and redesigning supplier and automaker organizations.

That’s good news for one of Visteon’s hot new product areas, what the industry calls a “domain controller.” Visteon’s version is called SmartCore. It can oversee a vehicle’s infotainment, instrument cluster and potentially many other features simultaneously.

Visteon says it has four customers for SmartCore. The first market introduction, on a European-brand vehicle, is scheduled for next year, with a second European nameplate program to follow. In April, Visteon announced an agreement with Dongfeng Motor Co. in China. The fourth customer has not been announced.

“A lot of OEMs are approaching us towards this technology,” Schupfner said of SmartCore. “One interesting point is: Why didn’t it come earlier?” Visteon began working on SmartCore about four years ago.

“The organization of big OEMs was not prepared for this type of technology,” he said.

“Before, you had separate departments for head-up, instrument clusters and infotainment. By doing the SmartCore concept, you need to change the setup in these organizations.”

He said Visteon has seen automakers embrace the idea of centralization over the past 18 months. German vehicle manufacturers were among the first to recognize the benefits of revising their organizations to take advantage of the new technology, he said.

Other vehicle manufacturers are “still in the mode of creating special project teams,” he said, “but we are also beginning to see organizational changes.”

That trend helps pave the way for products Visteon has in the pipeline. “We are working on a windshield HUD which has a sales price below $100,” Schupfner said. “And that’s really breaking through in the mass market.”

Schupfner said Visteon would also introduce a centralized system aimed at autonomous driving in January at the CES technology expo. Called DriveCore, it adds capabilities such as integration of data from multiple cameras, lidar and radar sensors, on top of SmartCore capabilities.