Launch of Autonomous Driving Remains to Use Mature Chassis-by-wire Technology
Chassis-by-wire makes it feasible to remove accelerator pedal, brake pedal and steering wheel, whose maturity has a bearing on autonomous driving implementations.
Critical elements of chassis by wire include: throttle by wire, gear shift by wire, suspension by wire, steering by wire and brake by wire. Wherein, drive, brake and steering are deemed as the crucial factors to vehicle travel.
Throttle by wire has been the first option for passenger cars, especially ACC/TCS-enabled vehicles for which such throttle has been a standard configuration. Promotion of drive by wire and steering by wire has suffered a setback due to a combination of factors such as poor user experience than conventional mechanical system for early immature technology, and difficulty in sorting out who is responsible, a result that drive by wire technology refers to regulation and control on the actuator by ECU. In recent years, boom of intelligent connected vehicles has invigorated drive-by-wire technology.
Brake by wire: Bosch, Continental and ZF leads the pack, while Chinese companies like Bethel Automotive Safety Systems Co., Ltd., Shanghai NASN Automotive Electronics Co., Ltd. and Ningbo Tuopu Group are chasing hard.
Over a century, automotive brake system has evolved from the mechanical to the hydraulic and then to the electronic (ABS/ESC). For L3 autonomy and above, responsive time of brake system is of paramount importance. Faster response of brake by wire ensures safe autonomous driving.
Brake-by-wire system is bifurcated into two types: Electro Hydraulic Brake (EHB) and Electro Mechanical Brake (EMB). EHB is split into One-Box and Two-Box solutions based on whether it is integrated with ABS/ESP or not.
One-box solution already prevails: One-box solution with fusion of ESP into EHB is based on mass production of mature ESP. Considering performance and cost, Bosch, Continental and ZF are doubling down on One-box products. Chinese suppliers with first-mover advantage are expected to replace foreign brands. Bethel Automotive Safety Systems Co., Ltd., the first to have developed One-box products in China, plans to spawn WCBS products in 2020, close to the SOP time of its foreign peers like Bosch. Its WCBS integrated with dual control EPB is more cost-effective.
Steering by wire: intelligence spurs the industry but commercialization is hindered
So far only Infiniti has had steering-by-wire solution for mass production since its advent. In 2014, Infiniti Q50 packing steering-by-wire solution offered by KYB made a debut. Yet, in July 2016, Dongfeng Motor and Nissan recalled 6,840 units of Infiniti Q50 and China-made Infiniti Q50L in all because of potential safety risks posed by steering by wire. In current stage, Infiniti has four models carrying Direct Adaptive Steering® (DAS) solutions all from KYB.
On a global view, international tycoons like Bosch, ZF, JTEKT, NSK and Nexteer boast mature steering by wire technologies and products but they still hit a bottleneck in commercialization.
In 2020, the mass production of L3 autonomous vehicles is to quicken commercial use of drive-by-wire systems. Foreign companies with an early layout in China will have first-mover advantage. Throughout the Chinese market, very few local players have made a difference in drive by wire technology, with small business scale, but the importance of drive-by-wire chassis makes them an enticement to capital and giants. In 2019, Shanghai NASN Automotive Electronics Co., Ltd. raised funds of RMB400 million. It is alleged that Huawei will set foot in drive by wire field.
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