"Automotive to mobility supplier" Schaeffler said it would put "solutions for Mobility for Tomorrow and change" at the centre of its exhibition at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas next month.
"We are showing how the visions for autonomous driving, electrification and networking can be made a reality," Peter Gutzmer, the company;s deputy CEO and chief technology officer. "The automotive industry is undergoing a dramatic change in which we are playing a role as a development partner."
Schaeffler expects its stand attention-grabber to be the bio-hybrid, a compact "mobility solution" for urban areas. This covered mini-vehicle offers protection from the weather while four wheels provide high driving stability. At just over two metres long and 85 cm wide, it occupies very little space. Propulsion is via an in-house-designed electric powertrain .
"The mobility requirements in rapidly expanding urban areas will change in the future," said Gutzmer. "It is not enough for us just to produce abstract sketches of our visions. Our ready-to-go prototypes show that we have the capability to make actual products."
The supplier is also "addressing the change which is happening at the component level", presenting its digitalisation concepts. The rolling bearing, the company's core product, is becoming a sensor for future networked automobiles. Sensor coatings incorporated in the bearings at a microscopic level will allow them to measure torques, revolutions, forces and temperatures in future – and thus supply invaluable data.
"The automobile will become part of the internet of things," said Gutzmer. "Our sensor bearings, which are being fitted wherever components move and forces occur, provide drivers, fleet managers and garages with first-hand data."
Electromechanical actuators, such as the active roll control system which Schaeffler has already put into production, will be able to provide data to the internet of things in the future.
The active roll control system compensates movements in automobile chassis caused by driving around corners or on uneven road surfaces. When combined with intelligent wheel bearings, a high-accuracy satellite navigation system and a communications module, it may, in the future, be possible to produce a real-time image of the condition of the road. This could then be used to send information to vehicles following behind or to the infrastructure operator.
Transmissions for future, electrified generations of vehicles will be a further point of focus for Schaeffler at the exhibition – for example, in self-driving taxis which can navigate their way through cities autonomously. In this case, all the drive components, with the exception of the battery, are located within the wheel. This makes it possible to have automobiles which have an extremely good usable space/footprint ratio whilst at the same time offering excellent manoeuvrability.
"The urban spaces of the future will require the smallest possible traffic footprint with the maximum mobility," said Gutzmer. "Innovative drive concepts such as the wheel hub motor make new types of mobility possible and are extremely significant components as far as digitalisation is concerned."
The level of electrification in conventional vehicles is already increasing and Schaeffler will present technical solutions required for this at CES. This ranges from 48V technologies, through high voltage modules for plug-in hybrid vehicles, to electric axles for purely electric vehicles.
"At CES, we are once again showing how Schaeffler's recently unveiled strategy Mobility for Tomorrow is now becoming a technical reality," said Gutzmer.
"At the same time, we are open to new partnerships with start-ups who are looking for a partner to work with to make their future mobility ideas a reality as well."
The supplier is expanding its research and development network and is putting particular emphasis in this area on digitalisation. Last October, it announced a far-reaching collaboration with IBM which will see the development of new technologies and business models for the digital age.