ZF and Hella Partnering for Advancing Technology

In an effort to advance autonomous and assisted driving technologies, two major automotive suppliers—ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Hella KGaA Hueck & Co.--have established a strategic partnership, with ZF bringing systems know-how (as well as driveline and safety technologies and an entire ecosystem of other partners it is organizing toward this end.

In an effort to advance autonomous and assisted driving technologies, two major automotive suppliers—ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Hella KGaA Hueck & Co.--have established a strategic partnership, with ZF bringing systems know-how (as well as driveline and safety technologies and an entire ecosystem of other partners it is organizing toward this end. About today’s announcement, Dr. Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF explains, “This strategic partnership for sensor technology with HELLA enhances our position as a complete systems supplier for modern assistance systems as well as autonomous driving functions. This non-exclusive cooperation with HELLA is an important expansion of our Vision Zero ecosystem of development partnerships. Thus, we can create a wider technological foundation for safety and autonomous driving.”

sommer

Dr. Sommer

(Vision Zero, incidentally, has two vectors, one toward zero accidents and the other toward zero emissions—autonomy and electrification, as it were.)

Dr. Rolf Breidenbach, CEO at Hella amplifies Dr. Sommers remark by noting, “Hella is a strong and experienced provider of sensor technologies. Our knowledge aligns perfectly with ZF’s expertise. By combining our strengths, we clearly aim to provide market leading and high performing assistance systems and autonomous driving functions. In addition, this cooperation will strengthen Hella’s position as a well-regarded supplier for imaging and radar sensor technologies.”

Initially the companies are working together on developing a front-end camera system that will combine the hardware and software resources of the two companies. They anticipate start of production for this product in 2020.

Then they’re looking at developing camera systems for automated driving. It is worth noting that both companies also have portfolios of radar technology.

Both executives say that they’re seeing a tremendous transformation of the auto industry as a variety of participants—both traditional companies as well as new entrants—are driving technology forward at an expectedly fast pace.

Dr. Sommer acknowledges that when they started crafting their strategic vision for 2025 they “underestimated the speed” at which technologies advanced. “2025 has arrived today,” he say.

What’s also interesting to note is that both ZF and Hella fall in the category of “traditional” companies—e.g., Hella has been in business for more than 100 years—but management at both companies recognize the absolute need to transform the way they do work. For example, while long a hardware company, Dr. Breidenbach says the company is now selling software, as well.

While there is some concern that autonomous, electrified vehicles will reduce the overall number of cars being sold, Dr. Sommer points out that in developing parts of the world there “the needs for mobility will rise.” Which conceivably means that the decrease in the developed world could be more than counteracted by demands in the developing. But Dr. Sommer also notes that these vehicles may not be cars and trucks as we know them today: they may be more purpose-built, or functionally oriented transport units.

And he and his colleagues want to be part of creating that future.