TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. has announced a number of global business investments that it says support its plans for growth over the next few years.

At the Frankfurt Show it highlighted its latest radar sensor technology and said that it will open or expand some 11 plants in 2011 and 2012 and will invest in a number of new product areas in several key markets.

TRW announced investments in driver assist systems (DAS) technology in Brest, France and in Peterlee, the UK; steering in China, Poland and the UK; and advanced braking systems in Koblenz, Germany. At the same time, the company unveiled plans for the following new plants: an occupant safety systems and braking facility in Wuhan, China; an aftermarket friction plant in Qingdao, China; and a slip control systems and actuation plant in Queretaro, Mexico.

John Plant, TRW Automotive chairman, president and chief executive officer, said: "In 2011, we're expecting to increase our research and development expenditure by US$80m compared with 2010 in order to support new technology and product launches, and over the same period capital investment has been increased by 90%. We're also currently completing the recruitment of 500 engineers at our technical centres worldwide.

"In addition to manufacturing investments, we are unveiling new technologies that will come to market as a result of our increased research and development investments.  We have further invested in our radar centre of excellence in Brest, France, to bring our 24 GHz radar to market and develop a new short range radar concept that will enable 360 degree sensing.  And we have outlined plans for our next generation of advanced braking systems to help meet the needs of lower vacuum requirements. This is being developed in Koblenz, Germany."

In addition to the new facilities, TRW is expanding production of electric power steering in Poland at a new satellite facility in Czechowice, and is increasing the manufacturing of precision motors in Slovakia following a major contract win. It will also expand its electrically powered steering and electronics plant in Anting, China; its braking joint venture in Nanjing, China; its occupant safety joint venture in Chengdu; and its fasteners plant in Ningbo.

"TRW has the right manufacturing footprint and product portfolio to support its growth plans.  While we are investing heavily to support the tremendous growth in China, Brazil and India, we continue to focus on developing advanced technologies to support our global vehicle manufacturer customers.  We believe we are making the right choices to make the right safety solutions available to everyone in all markets," said Plant.

Radar with 360 degree sensing

TRW also announced its next development in radar technology for 360 degree sensing around a vehicle, to enable multiple safety and convenience functions and further enhance driver safety. The new concept is described as a short range scalable radar family which can enable functions including lane change assist, blind spot detection, cross traffic alert, side impact sensing and low speed collision warning. The sensors can also be integrated with the vehicle braking and electric power steering systems to provide limited emergency braking and traffic jam assist.

Martin Thoone, vice president, electronics engineering at TRW, said: "Our new radar concept is a landmark in Driver Assist Systems (DAS) technology - with a limited number of low-cost sensors independently reporting data to a central control unit, enabling a wide range of safety functions to be managed efficiently and intelligently.

"Despite significant improvements in the safety systems of modern vehicles, the number of road-related accidents remains unacceptably high. We need to look at next generation active safety systems - developing lower cost sensors with multiple safety benefits such as our latest radar concept. It's our latest step in delivering 'the safety everyone deserves' and we see a strong demand for this type of system."

TRW says that its new sensor concept is a compact, scalable radar solution which can be used for multiple applications - either singly or in groups. This is, it says, is ideal for vehicle manufacturers who may wish to start with basic driver assist functions but upgrade them in the future, or to create a modular range of safety and convenience systems that can be offered across multiple vehicle models and trim levels. For example a basic system could comprise a single forward looking sensor for low speed collision warning, a mid level system could add a pair of rear-mounted radars for blind spot detection/ lane change assist, and a premium system could add additional sensors for traffic jam assist, side impact detection or be used as part of an automatic parking solution.

"There is increasing consumer interest in features such as blind spot detection, lane change assist and side pre-crash systems, which can help to enhance safety - particularly when driving in city traffic and congested areas," said Thoone.

TRW expects that its new radar technology will be ready for production by 2015.

Thoone added: "We are experiencing strong demand for our current 24 GHz medium range radar and scalable camera system and are now looking at the long term future of DAS systems. 360 degree environmental sensing is the next step for safety and our radar concept offers an intelligent solution to deliver this."