One of the dominant themes at CES this year was car companies and automotive suppliers entering the emerging mobility space and using technology rather than traditional sheet metal to move people. Just days before CES kicked off, GM announced a $500 million investment in the ride-hailing provider Lyft (and last week announced its new Maven car-sharing service).
At the Las Vegas show, Bosch also unveiled its Simply.Connected concept to bring mobility solutions to the market. The 130-year-old German company is a leading supplier to the global automotive industry, but also provides a wide array of technology to other industries – everything from home appliances to agricultural robots. So it’s well positioned to tap into various industries, which will be required to make smart mobility a reality. And Bosch is also pouring significant resources into research in this growing space.
One of the main challenges is redirecting a massive company like Bosch and its resources from an established business – in this case automotive – to an embryonic one like mobility. “This is a very important question we discuss inside our company constantly,” Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, told me in an interview at CES. “But we also have very strong branches in industrial technology and in material science. On one side we have our traditional and current business model, but we have to enhance it.”
One example of leveraging traditional technology to create new forms of mobility is Bosch’s move into electric bicycles, which are a popular alternative to cars in parts of Europe and are beginning to catch on in some U.S. cities. “We decided to enter electric mobility some years ago, not only for cars but also for bicycles,” said Hoheisel. “We were very successful, and I think electric bicycles are very important for urban mobility.”
“We see it in Germany and in Europe in general,” he added, “and have now entered the U.S. market, and especially in some areas bicycles have become more attractive. We have to look at the whole aspects of mobility that comes from bicycles, pedestrian mobility and mass transit to choose the right way to get from Point A to Point B.”
Parking is another facet of urban mobility that Bosch is working to solve using its existing technology. “We can use the sensors such as cameras on a car to identify if there is a parking space available or not [on a street],” Hoheisel said. “While we can’t reserve this space, we can give drivers an idea of whether this is a good area or not to find parking.” He explained, “It is very simple: Use the sensors of the car, send the information to the cloud, make a computation and then distribute it. We will see a lot of other possibilities.”
Hoheisel added that Bosch is also developing automated valet parking. “The car is placed in front of a car park and automatically navigates to a space without a human. This is not an unrealistic idea,” he said. “We will have it within this decade.”
Like other automakers and suppliers at CES this year, Bosch demonstrated how it can integrate various other systems into connected cars. And because of its home climate control division, Bosch is well positioned to move into this area. “For me, as an engineer, I think it is simple that we can combine the climate system in your house with your car,” Hoheisel explained. “The car knows exactly when you will be home, so your climate control can be switched on 15 minutes before you enter your home.”
To enable this technology and jump-start its move into mobility, Bosch has invested heavily into research and recently opened a new R&D center in Renningen near Stuttgart. The 1,700 researchers at the facility have been tasked to cultivate a start-up culture to develop, among other things, autonomous-vehicle technology, next-generation EV batteries and big data analytics.
Hoheisel pointed out that in Bosch’s 130-year history “innovation over all this time has been an important factor. We spend roughly 10 percent of our revenue on research, and this is very important to drive our innovations.
“Bosch is number-one in supplying the automotive industry,” concluded Hoheisel, who heads the company’s Mobility Solutions business sector, which is responsible for the Chassis Systems Control, Car Multimedia, Automotive Electronics and Automotive Steering divisions. “We have our household appliances, we have our tools and so on. We are not only a car parts maker. The result is that we can really cover a broad range of technology that allows transportation – and not just with cars – that bring us into the future.”
This article was written by Doug Newcomb from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.