You have to admire the optimistic attitude of the folks at Siemens VDO Automotive (Auburn Hills, MI; www.siemensvdo.com). Their CESAR (Cockpit Electro-mechanical System Architecture) modular cockpit design treats the instrument panel as a system, not a conglomeration of parts. Which means component-oriented OEM purchasing departments will have to change the way they judge its cost, and place budgetary and other control in the hands of a Tier 1 supplier if it is to be adopted. “The OEMs are beginning to recognize the benefits of a systems approach—which optimizes the system as a whole to reduce cost and weight while improving value to the customer—and are working with us to pursue these benefits,” says Jim Bayley business Development manager, North American Cockpit Modules and Systems, Siemens VDO. Perhaps the optimism isn’t misplaced.
“The modular approach gives the OEM more flexibility to commonize the substructure across a platform and create greater styling and feature differentiation between brands within a platform,” he claims. This is because the driver module, center console, and front passenger module are separate items that connect together via common fasteners and standardized electronic interfaces. The modules don’t have to be manufactured in the same facility or by the same supplier—they can be sourced globally—and the electronic modules can be swapped via the plug-and-play interface. Multi-media functions are routed through a separate server that can be updated easily, and all driver-relevant functions are routed through a “real-time” server that processes information as it comes in. An iDrive-like HMI (Human-Machine Interface) controls the displays and also can be updated as these technologies evolve. “The technology can be applied to any vehicle level—it’s not a high-line technology for luxury vehicles alone—but the greatest cost benefit is achieved when it’s applied to a platform that spans a wide range of styling and content,” says Bayley.
The 30% cost savings Siemens VDO is claiming for CESAR (when compared to an instrument panel with the same content, features, quality, and styling using current cockpit technology) comes from use of a common structure, parts reduction through module integration, and a significant reduction in redundancy due to the new electrical architecture. The structural backbone is a die-cast magnesium cross-car frame that houses both the electrical connectors and the attachments for mounting the individual modules. In addition, weight of the complete unit is 15% less, and the consolidation of parts increases available space by as much as 60 liters. Not only does this make room for storage solutions, it makes packaging of items like head-up displays easier.—CAS