Nearly 100 Percent of Vehicles Sold in U.S. Must Have Advanced Airbag Systems By 2006

Delphi Automotive Systems (NYSE: DPH - news) has announced that it is supplying its smart occupant passenger detection system for Jaguar and four models of Ford and Lincoln-Mercury vehicles. The Delphi PODS (Passive Occupant Detection System) is the first and only weight- sensing system of its kind to reach the market with its unique features and functions. It is first being introduced as standard equipment on the 2001 Jaguar XK sports car series Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS).

"We were able to develop the right solution at the right time," said Dave Wohleen, executive vice president of Delphi Automotive Systems. "Our early development of a validated technology to address an anticipated regulatory ruling is paying off now in major customer programs. The combination of accurate market forecasting combined with unrelenting commitment and innovation from our team has put us in the lead in this new market."

The PODS technology enables vehicle manufacturers to improve the effectiveness of airbag protection through smart deployment or suppression of the passenger's airbag. The Delphi weight-based system is a critical component of an advanced airbag system which vehicle-makers must implement to meet the recent U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208 that was announced in May. The advanced airbag ruling requires manufacturers to make airbags more effective for a broader weight-range of occupants than previously required for vehicles sold in the U.S. Beginning in 2004, 35 percent of each manufacturer's fleet sold in the U.S. must be equipped with advanced airbag systems and the number increases to nearly 100 percent by 2006. The Delphi seat-based sensor determines whether to suppress or allow passenger airbag deployment based on the passenger's weight or is designed to suppress the system entirely if the seat is empty.

"This is truly a market 'game changer' which represents an entirely new safety segment in the vehicle component industry," said Wohleen. PODS technology joins a distinguished list of earlier safety innovations like airbags, anti-lock brakes and smart seat restraints."

The Delphi PODS technology consists of a bladder-based weight-sensing technology mounted under the passenger seat cushion. Using sophisticated occupant classification algorithms and extensive signal processing, it allows the vehicle airbag controller to variably deploy or suppress the passenger airbag. Designed to measure the occupants loading force on the vehicle's seat, the system classifies the occupant according to weight, and provides the information to the airbag controller based on the occupant's characteristics, an important factor in determining whether, and to what extent, the airbag should be deployed. Also, some repair cost-savings are achieved with vehicles equipped with the PODS technology since the passenger airbag is designed to not deploy when the passenger seat is empty.

Unlike systems with manual on/off switches, the passive system requires no interaction or involvement by the driver or passengers to achieve the appropriate deployment decision. In addition, the system is nearly universal to all seat types without affecting seat crashworthiness.

With numerous patents granted and others pending, the Delphi PODS technology consists of a silicone fluid-filled bladder weight system, produced by American Components Inc. (ACI) of Dandridge, Tenn., and a pressure sensor mounted under the seat cushion and an electronics control unit for sensor data processing. Delphi and ACI have done extensive work to apply the bladder technology for lumbar supports in seats for specific bladder designs for the PODS technologies. Delphi altered and adapted its existing expertise in making pressure sensors for the sensor used on the system. The company produces millions of pressure sensors a year that have received worldwide acceptance as the industry standard.

"Providing an intelligent electronics solution has put us ahead of our competition and will enhance our opportunities for future business growth in this segment," Wohleen said. "Making efficient use of our experience, along with a non-evasive integration design, has given Delphi an early opportunity to set the standard in this new market.2

Delphi works with seat manufacturers as well as vehicle systems suppliers and vehicle manufacturers to integrate the PODS system into their individual vehicle architectures. For example, in some applications, the Delphi system is integrated with another supplier's ultrasonic sensing system to provide additional passenger positioning measurements. While the ultrasonic sensors constantly monitor the presence and position of the front passenger, the PODS system detects the presence and approximate seated weight of the occupant. In other applications, PODS will be integrated with a seat belt tension sensor to provide a compliant airbag suppression system to meet the new federal guidelines.

Delphi made its first production air cushion restraint in 1974 for General Motors, which offered it as an option on certain Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile models.

Occupant-sensing products are anticipated to exceed $3.6 billion in new revenue opportunities for automotive suppliers by 2006, according to Strategy Analytics Ltd. (Automotive System Demand report, September 2000). The report forecasts that the systems will grow at a 70 percent compound annual growth rate over the next six years.

Multi-national Delphi Automotive Systems, with headquarters in Troy, Mich., USA, Paris, Tokyo and Sao Paulo, Brazil, is a world leader in mobile electronics and transportation components and systems technology. Delphi's three business sectors -- Dynamics & Propulsion; Safety, Thermal & Electrical Architecture; and Electronics & Mobile Communication -- provide comprehensive product solutions to complex customer needs. Delphi has approximately 216,000 employees and operates 184 wholly owned manufacturing sites, 44 joint ventures, 53 customer centers and sales offices and 31 technical centers in 40 countries. Delphi can be found on the Internet at www.delphiauto.com