ZF strengthens AV sensor offerings with Hella partnership
At its global media event in Bratislava, ZF Friedrichshafen AG announced that it had formed a strategic partnership with Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. to cooperate on development of sensor technology, particularly for front camera systems, imaging, and radar systems.
With the partnership, ZF hopes to further strengthen its portfolio as a systems supplier offering advanced driver-assistance systems and more advanced autonomous-driving functions. Hella intends to derive benefits from getting broader market access for its technologies.
The first joint development project in camera technology will start immediately, with the objective of a market launch in 2020.
“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,” said Dr. Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen AG. “This nonexclusive 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.”
“Hella is a strong and experienced provider of sensor technologies,” added Dr. Rolf Breidenbach, CEO, Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. “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.”
The partners are targeting systems that meet the future highest Euro NCAP safety ratings, which will require camera-supported assistance functions and thus drive demand. They are starting development immediately with an expected start-or-production in 2020. ZF will contribute hardware and function, systems, and integration expertise, with Hella subsidiary Aglaia Mobile Vision contributing competence in imaging software and application development.
On the radar side in the short- to mid-term, the partners will focus on providing comprehensive volume-production systems solution, combining Hella’s 360° surround view radar systems with ZF’s mid- and long-range radars.
The camera systems will be further developed by the partners in the mid- to long-term for greater automated-driving functions as well as for commercial and off-highway vehicle applications, with ZF simultaneously expanding its other camera portfolio and options for customers.
Both companies emphasized that they will continue to develop and offer technology independently of the partnership.
One such technology is LiDAR (light detection and ranging), the third pillar of technology—supplementing radars and cameras—that is part of most automated vehicle systems. Lidar is an optical method for measuring distance and speed that is similar in concept to radar, except that laser pulses are used instead of radio waves.
Last year, ZF acquired a 40% stake in Hamburg-based Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. Founded in 2009, Ibeo is a market leader in developing environmental-recognition software with a particular focus on applications for autonomous driving.
"Lidar gives us access to a core technology for environmental and object recognition," claimed Sommer, then explaining ZF's investment in Ibeo. "Lidar expands our current sensor portfolio of radar and camera technologies. Ibeo's fusion of these three sensor technologies provides outstanding results in environmental awareness and forms the basis for autonomous driving."
The LiDAR developed by ZF and Ibeo will reproduce a three-dimensional image of the environment without the rotating mirrors, the solid-state technology considered the low-cost and more-compact future of the technology.
"Our central theme at ZF is ‘See, Think, Act,’ a philosophy which highlights how we are equipping the vehicles of tomorrow with new senses and more intelligence. To achieve this, we are gradually filling in the remaining gaps in our technology portfolio," explained Sommer. "With LiDAR technology and sensor fusion, we are able to strengthen the eyes and brain of future generations of vehicles and thus move a step closer to realizing the vision of accident-free driving.”