ZF is a global technology company and tier one supplier to the automotive industry, with over 160,000 employees globally in 41 countries. Its UK footprint consists of 10 key facilities and almost 3,000 staff, a third of which are engineers engaged in research and development.
We spoke to ZF’s Peter Lakie, Senior Vice President of Customer and Business Development, on connected and automated mobility (CAM), industry collaboration and Covid-19’s impact on the future of transport.
Tell us about your role at ZF…
I lead ZF’s Sales and Customer Development function within the UK. Automated and autonomous driving is a key technology field for ZF. As a leading developer of self-driving hardware and software, from sensors to complete autonomous shuttles, ZF is making substantial investments in the autonomous game. Our goal of zero accidents and zero emissions has led to the planned investment of some 12 billion euros over a five-year period as we look to be a key contributor for a clean, safe and sustainable mobility landscape. ZF also specialises in advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS) as well as passive safety technology, making us one of few market actors to support all automation levels from L0 – L5.
What are the main CAM priorities for ZF in the short and long term, and how do these align with the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030?
For ZF, many of the focus areas of the Roadmap are of great interest, and there are a number where we can be potential contributors. For example, ZF has been developing ADAS sensors and systems in the UK for over 40 years, and as the world’s largest automotive safety camera supplier and a leading developer of radar and lidar systems, we can have input into the sensor development area and the test development area in which system validation is a key to safe operation. This is something we are deeply involved in and could be a partner in a suggested UK testbed for autonomous operation. The use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in achieving higher levels of autonomy and the Operational Design Domains taxonomy are also of keen interest.
In your opinion, what role does collaboration play in the ongoing development of CAM?
One thing we have understood from early on is that no single company or entity can attempt to tackle the vehicle autonomy challenge alone. We have built a strong network of technology partners with companies like Nvidia, Mobileye/Intel, Faurecia, Hella and others that are working collaboratively on the many facets of autonomy while engaging with other stakeholders in government, academia and beyond to unravel the complexities of autonomy. And, of course, we are collaborating with our UK-based vehicle manufacturer customers like Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover, and many others to supply or develop leading-edge systems and functions.
Can you tell us a little bit about why you became a CAM Creator in the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030: CAM Creators Update?
The pursuit of autonomous driving is a monumental task and laying out the steps in an organised and logical roadmap is essential to approaching this challenge. We are very fortunate to have the Zenzic organisation who are working with all of the key stakeholders to help create the path to connected and automated mobility in the UK, with its unique requirements [e.g. right hand drive].
The governmental role in bringing forth clear rules and regulations overseeing the implementation of autonomy in a safe manner is a critical element. Meanwhile the foundational technologies of sensors, control units and vehicle motion control actuators working in concert in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems form the foundation for automated driving and can save countless lives along the way. As we seek to significantly reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities and increase the efficiency of our transportation systems in the UK, the Roadmap will be an important contributor to public safety and environmental goals and ZF looks forward to partnering in these future endeavours.
We have seen a big shift in the use of transport this year with the effects of Covid-19, how do you think this will impact the future of transport?
While it is true that the terrible consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic have caused in some cases a slowing of progress, we also see opportunities. Green recovery programmes can help cities invest in modernising their public transport system. Advanced CAM technology such as electrified autonomous shuttles have the potential to render urban transport cleaner, more efficient and inclusive, creating closer and more frequent connections between suburban areas and inner cities. Together with its wholly owned subsidiary 2getthere, ZF is the market leader in L4 driverless shuttle technology, having completed more than 100 million kilometers and carried over 14 million passengers since 1997. Building a type-approval framework for L4 autonomous shuttles in the UK should be in our view be a key part of the road-mapping exercise.