Tech from Detroit

By Richard Russell

– Suppliers play a critical role in the development of new technologies used in the auto industry, commonly taking the lead role and in many cases pitching the new idea to the auto company. Today’s passenger vehicles are so complex it would be rare for any single entity to cover the development costs and employ the scientists and engineers that have to be dedicated to a particular project. While it is common for many of these to be used by a single manufacturer originally, in return for helping fund the development, the contracts allow them to be used by competitors after a certain period of time. Let’s take a look at some of these new developments, the companies behind them and the effect they will have on the vehicles we will be driving in the near future.

Johnson Controls is one of the major players in the automotive supplier world. With more than 140,000 employees it has provided components for more than 200 million vehicles, 12 million homes and more than one million commercial buildings. It introduced a couple of new innovations at this year’s show including its very own concept vehicle, the re3.

The re3 is a showcase for innovative engineering and packaging centered around the fact that consumers today want smaller vehicles, without sacrificing features and functions. Innovations displayed on the re3 include: class-leading storage capacity in the instrument panel, a seat-wing armrest and controller on the driver’s seat, enabling some of the controls to be moved from the center stack to the seat; a conversational seating arrangement , Slim Seating and rear, stadium-style folding seats and Eco-friendly, renewable materials with “natural look” finishes

Johnson Controls re3

Johnson Controls re3

 Johnson Controls announced it has been awarded patents for an innovative new wireless connectivity technology that uses Bluetooth protocol for wireless connection of cell phones to the vehicle’s audio system allowing hands-free calling. The company is already the global leader in hands-free automobile system, providing them to manufacturers in North America, Asia, Europe and Australia.


BYD Auto Company
BYD (Build Your Dreams) is one of the amazing success stories coming out of China. From a staff of 20, ten years ago, it has grown to 140,000 at present as the world’s second largest producer of rechargeable batteries and a supplier of IT components to Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and others.

The next stage of its growth plan is to parlay that expertise into electric cars. BYD recently bought one of China’s largest auto makers and showed several new models here, among them the F3DM sedan, which it says is the first production plug-in hybrid vehicle with the company’s advanced Fe lithium-iron battery and its new Dual Mode (DM) plug-in hybrid system.


The Bosch name is well known in automobile circles. The German company supplies engine control units, fuel injectors, various electrical components, oxygen sensors solenoids to the industry. 



Founded in 1886, it has 271,000 employees in 50 countries, 25,000 of them in 70 locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Bosch invests heavily in research applying for more than 3,000 patents each year. One of its latest developments can be found in the new Ford F150 pickup – a brake control system that helps detect and prevent skidding rollovers and trailer sway. It is standard equipment on all F150 models.


Using recycled waste packaging and other by-products normally discarded in a vehicle manufacturing plant, Federal Mogul has developed an environmentally-friendly new sound-deadening product called QuietShield on the new 2010 Buick LaCrosse (Allure in Canada) .


QuietShield(R) is used as acoustical padding in the headliner to reduce noise in the passenger compartment. Federal-Mogul was founded in Detroit in 1899. Employing nearly 45,000 people in 35 countries it is a leading global supplier of powertrain and safety technologies.


This French-based company with 16 R&D centers, 121 production plants and 54,000 employees in 27 countries helped develop the lighting system displayed on the Volvo S60 concept car that made its world-wide introduction here. The system could be considered a peak at the where automotive lighting is going, especially head and signal lights.

Valeo headlights (Volvo S60 Concept)

Valeo headlights (Volvo S60 Concept)

Using only LED (Light Emitting Diodes) the system developed by Volvo and Valeo has a low beam module positioned in the upper part of the headlight to produce a wide, consistent beam that adapts automatically to driving conditions (e.g. city, winding country road, etc.).


The high beam unit has been designed for optimal range in relation to vehicle speed and proximity to other vehicles and since the performance and color of LED lights is close to that of daylight, they offer better perception and more comfortable viewing.


LEDs are loved by designers because their small size and ability to be grouped provide greater freedom of design. They also boast very long life and draw less power than conventional lights. The turn signals, daytime running lights and side marker lights on the S60 Concept are also comprised of LEDs.

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