Electronic innovations will shape the automotive industry in the coming decade, according to comments made at the Blue Ribbon Panel at Convergence 2000.

Donald L. Runkle, executive vice president and president, Dynamics & Propulsion Sector of Delphi Automotive Systems (NYSE: DPH – news), joined four industry experts and moderator, William Powers, vice president of research for Ford Motor Company, to answer key questions about the future of automotive electronics.

Speaking specifically on electronics, Runkle told the panel: “I think we are in for a very exciting decade as we knock on the door of unlimited computing power, unlimited memory and unlimited bandwidth. By 2010, I expect advancements in electronics to propel the auto industry toward solving many of its remaining problems.”

Runkle emphasized six major electronic/electrical changes on the horizon for the next decade:

Electronic Cocoon — This is a broad Delphi innovation where sensors and computers will be constantly on guard for things like rear-end and frontal collisions, broadside collisions and vehicle stability. “With the right kind of focus and developments, I think we can imagine cars that don’t have accidents,” Runkle said.

Vehicle Stability Control — Products such as Delphi’s TRAXXAR(TM) and Brake-By-Wire Systems, provide major improvements in braking, handling, and overall vehicle stability. “I know the concept of accident-free driving will strike fear in the hearts of many, including airbag producers and some ‘legal eagles,’ but we can’t stop progress,” Runkle said.

Electrical Intense Powertrains — The challenges of providing both cleaner and more efficient vehicles are now met simultaneously. According to Runkle, since the practical application of electricity more than one hundred years ago, there has been a trend to replace mechanical and hydraulic devices with electrically driven motors and actuators. This has been true in virtually every mechanical system, including the automobile. This trend will continue what Runkle calls “electrical intense powertrains.”

Total Vehicle Energy Management — “Future electrical systems will need to be thought of in the context of energy management systems,” Runkle said. “One can see the day when engine control may be a subset of the energy management system.” Load management and peak level shaving will be standard features to minimize system cost and optimize vehicle efficiency.

Mobile Multimedia — Consumers continue to demand more from their vehicles in their average 80-minute-per-day drive time. Delphi will meet that demand with the Communiport® Mobile Multimedia System. “The information and entertainment features will relieve the tedium of the long commute,” Runkle said.

14/42-Volt Electrical Architecture — According to Runkle, 42 volt will become an expected standard for most automakers in the future because consumers will demand more from their vehicles. “If we want to apply high power electrical loads such as valve train, then 42-volt makes sense,” he said.

Members of the Convergence 2000 Blue Ribbon Panel, moderated by Ford’s William Powers, were: Runkle, Francois Castaing of Castaing and Associates, Hans Gustavsson of Volvo Car Corporation, Norio Omori of Denso Corporation and Franz Wressnigg of Siemens Automotive Corporation.

More information on the Blue Ribbon Panel can be found at www.convergence2000.org .

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 .