Aptiv, Valens Working to Slash In-Car Wiring
【Summary】Auto supplier Aptiv, the high-tech spinoff from Delphi Automotive, is working with Valens, a Israeli high-tech semiconductor company to reduce the amount of wire needed to connect components when assembling a car.
Currently, a fully wired vehicle requires thousands of feet of electrical wiring, which adds weight and manufacturing complexity and also generates endless warranty problems caused electrical shorts.
Aptiv wants to reduce the amount of wire needed and the reliance on different types of wiring for infotainment and other functions.
"It requires one cable for each type," said Micha Risling, senior vice president of Valens Automotive, based in Hod HaSharon, Israel. "For video, audio, USB and Internet, you will carry them over five or six cables today," he said. "We can carry them over one cable."
Cutting down on the amount of wire also saves weight, Risling told Automotive News. "Today when an OEM engineer is working on an idea for a feature, you somehow need to reduce the extra weight," he said. "Every gram you save has a direct effect on fuel consumption."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk this year created buzz around eliminating wiring when he told analysts that the Tesla Model 3 contains roughly half the 10,000 feet of wire used in the Tesla Model S liftback, which was launched in 2012.
He said Tesla's next model, the Model Y small crossover, would require only 328 feet of wiring.
In August, Aptiv CEO Kevin Clark told market analysts that his company is Tesla's primary wire harness provider. Clark said Aptiv is having similar strategic discussions with other automakers about reducing wiring and new architectures for vehicles — "principally with the European German luxury OEs."
Even as the amount of wiring potentially shrinks, Clark said the Tier 1 supplier expects to more than make up for it in terms of content per vehicle, because Aptiv also supplies the associated components for optimizing signal distribution over fewer wires. Aptiv considers the linkup with Valens as a strategic partnership.
Risling cautioned that there is much more to new wiring solutions than merely connecting multiple features over the same physical wires. A key solution is the use of more robust computing power.
"It's a common practice in the industry to have multiple displays in a vehicle," he said.
"Each display will be connected to a head unit or an electronic control unit. But now they can be connected to the same one," he said.
"This saves a lot of meters — kilometers, even" of wires, he said. If a vehicle has two displays in proximity, they can be connected to the same electrical control unit, meaning less wiring running through the vehicle.
"That could represent a savings of 15 meters," Risling said. "If you multiply that by displays, sensors, lidars, sonars — this is where you can find major savings."
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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