INTERVIEW: Andrew Brown - Delphi chief technologist
"We are going to have around 2bn more people on earth. Each region will have a unique set of solutions." Delphi chief technologist, Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown is vice president & chief technologist for Delphi Automotive, representing the supplier globally in outside forums such as innovation and technology including government and regulatory agencies, customers, alliance partners, vendors, contracting agencies and academia.
Brown was previously responsible for common policies, practices, processes and performance across Delphi's 18,000-member technical community globally, including establishing Delphi's global engineering footprint with new centres in Poland, India, China and Mexico. Brown talked to Simon Warburton at Delphi's offices and customer center in Troy, Michigan, during last month's Detroit Auto Show week.
j-a: Delphi is known for its technical innovations, but to what extent is it also involved in the applications of those advances in terms of transport and mobility?
AB: We are part of a major safety launch in Michigan, sponsored by the Department of Transportation/NHTSA and led by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. It involves 2,850 vehicles: light passenger, commercial trucks and buses.
There is a designated route around the city of Ann Arbor - and each vehicle is outfitted with a set of sensors to evaluate what the driver is doing as well as connecting the vehicle with the city's infrastructure as part of this demonstration.
The idea is if you can institute vehicle-to-vehicle and off-board connections (from smartphones), you may have a solution to driver distraction as well as provide information to the driver in terms of traffic congestion and accident situations, propose alternative routes and alert drivers.
The DOT is using this demonstration to help develop a set of guidelines that will address issues of driver distraction. It is the largest driver demonstration of its type globally and runs through August , 2013.
It has Tier 1 suppliers like us and also involves OEMs. Delphi is helping make sure vehicles are equipped with the appropriate sensor technology for the demonstration. The project is a government-funded initiative, administered through the University of Michigan.
Although it is in anticipation of regulations, it is an attempt to solve a real world problem.
j-a: Can you give an example of that real-world issue?
By 2025-2030, we are going to have several more mega-cities around the globe. For example, it is predicted that the area between Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago will become completely urbanised.
The issue is if the population is going to grow and [if] we are going to have continued growth in transportation, how do we manage that? We have got to get out in front and anticipate the issues and advocate solutions.
We are going to have around 2bn more people on the earth. Each region will have a unique set of solutions - the key thing is what can be applied and adapted. One of my favourite expressions is 'you should be obsoleting your technology before somebody does it for you.'
j-a: What other safety aspects is Delphi currently evaluating?
There is a significant trend starting in Europe that will certainly happen here in the US and other regions - that is the idea of making commercial vehicles safer using active safety technologies.
Among these technologies are autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure warning (LDW) systems, which becomes mandatory equipment in Europe for certain new commercial vehicles beginning 1 November, 2013 and for all new heavy-duty commercial vehicles by 1 November, 2015.
AEB will also become part of the Euro NCAP overall star vehicle safety rating programme for passenger cars beginning in 2014. As stated by Euro NCAP, it will become "practically impossible" for motorised vehicles without AEB to receive its top five-star safety rating. And other regions in the world are considering adopting similar measures.
The DOT and NHTSA have been monitoring what they have been doing in Europe on various technologies such as vision systems that eliminate mirrors on heavy duty vehicles - from an aerodynamic perspective they also reduce fuel consumption.
Delphi helps commercial vehicle OEM and truck fleet customers comply with safety legislation to reduce the number of accidents.
j-a: How will Delphi lever its capability in the growing commercial sector?
AB: The largest growth will occur in the emerging countries, notably China and India. Projections for growth in the commercial vehicle sector is [it is] clearly going to occur in China first and India - for Delphi we are already in these markets - we have manufacturing capability in India and China.
We have established relationships with commercial vehicle manufacturers in these regions. Increase in global truck volume allows Delphi to leverage its global manufacturing foot print and achieves economies of scale.
j-a: To what extent does Delphi anticipate regulation?
AB: One of my other jobs is to be responsible for global regulations not only in understanding the direction but also having good relationships because it is important to participate...not only with government regulators but also with the standard-making bodies, CATARC for example, in China.
j-a: Can you give an example of regulation in the US that is impacting Delphi and how you also present back to the Federal government?
AB: One of the emerging trends is fuel consumption reduction. I was asked in 2010 to develop guidelines and technical recommendations to reduce consumption for the US.
I chair some major initiatives with the National Research Council and the DOT asked me to chair the committee to assess technologies to reduce fuel consumption of medium and heavy duty vehicles.
The findings were presented to the DOT, White House committees and Congress. NHTSA used them to develop the first set of guidelines for commercial vehicles
President Obama referenced this work in announcing the requirements starting with the 2014 model year through to the 2017 model year - this is now law.
I have now been asked by DOT to lead the next phase addressing 2022 and beyond. It will take real-world data and in-field performance into consideration.
j-a: What other factors are at play in the US energy and transportation scene?
AB: The other mega-trend is the advent of natural gas. Because of the development in the US of fracking technology, that has allowed us to get to natural gas in portions of the earth that before was costly to do.
It would seem commercial vehicles would be ideal for natural gas, especially since one of the issues with natural gas is having the necessary infrastructure to distribute it around the country.
Fracking is controversial, but we are starting to get our arms around it in an environmentally safe way. People don't realise we have been doing this for 20 years - there is an experience base that exists.
j-a: So do you think Delphi in tandem with OEMs can achieve the 54.5mpg?
AB: From a Delphi perspective, we are positioned to offer many technologies to help OEs meet 54.5mpg. [The] oil price, emissions and regulations, will drive the nature of the technology and the nature of the vehicles that are provided into the future.
At Delphi, we are positioning ourselves to provide whatever technology is needed, whether gas, diesel or electrified vehicles.
As the demand for technology increases in the spectrum of commercial vehicles, system complexity and costs often rise proportionally. Delphi vertical integration capabilities help solve customer problems through management of CV electrical complexity and system architecture optimisation.