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strategy, Stark explains. A welcome side effect: In India, close to one million engineers complete their university study every year which makes it much easier to find qualified staff than in Germany. According to Stark, digitisation is a priority issue for Daimler, ranking as high as being technology leader or growing in globally. These main concerns of the Swabian company are similar to other carmaker’s strategic goals: connected vehicles, autonomous driving, electromobility and new usage models involving car sharing. Employing more than 2500 engineers and computer scientists, MBRDI is one of Daimler’s largest R&D centres outside Germany. Growing at a fast pace of 900 additional engineers per year, it is involved in the design of electronic automotive systems such as powertrain, chassis, driver assistance systems, telematics and apps for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and buses for all models worldwide – activities that are closely entangled with Daimler’s R&D centres in Stuttgart, Germany and Sunnyvale, California. The digitisation has had a significant impact on the process of designing and testing new cars, explains Manu Saale, Managing Director and CEO of MBRDI. “The idea is to develop the product on the computer for as long as possible“, unlike the current approach, where the engineers depend on hardware in terms of product solutions and testing. “Today, the engineers are implementing as much of their designs as possible in the digital domain”, he says – they are using virtual testing for software and hardware as well as software solutions that replace functionally similar hardware. In addition to development activities related to in-vehicle systems, the subsidiary maintains a CAE department that supports Daimler’s worldwide design activities with its expertise in topics such as crash, occupant safety, pedestrian protection, or body stiffness. Towards this end, the subsidiary has significant computing power at its command. Another business field of the unit is IT engineering – the IT teams at MBRDI are responsible to plan, realise and maintain applications for the company’s worldwide engineering and manufacturing activities. For instance, in 2010 Daimler decided to switch the entire company-wide mechanical and electrical engineering software platform from Catia CAx to NX from Siemens – the biggest digital roll-out ever by an automotive OEM. Though it was possible to automatically convert some routines and product data sets, many virtual drawings had to be converted manually. This task has been performed by MBRDI. During the hot phase of the project, up to 300 workers were involved. Though the switchover has been concluded successfully in mid-2015, more than 120 experts are still busy converting such drawings to the new format. This is not a low-salary routine task. “Since this job requires that they completely understand the meaning of the drawings, they all have to be trained mechanical or vehicle building engineers”, explains Satheeskaran Navaratnam, Vice President and Head of IT Consulting & Engineering Services Mercedes-Benz R&D India. A quality assurance group within the department makes sure that possible mistakes are eliminated. In addition, this group develops software that automatically detects incompatibilities in the conversion process. The focus of digitisation is in product development. In this field, most of the software that runs under the hood of Mercedes Benz sedans, SUVs and roadsters has been developed in Bangalore. One of the major future projects is autonomous driving in all of its many nuances, from traffic jam assistant and automated parking to the algorithms of fully automated driving. But recent reports attested competitors from the Silicon Valley the lead in this future technology, Saale was convinced that this view does not reflect the reality. “If today you want to buy an autonomous car – to the extend today’s cars can be autonomous – you have to go to Stuttgart. You cannot buy such a car in the Silicon Valley,” the R&D manager said. “Being in the digital business, I feel safe with respect to Silicon Valley.” A catalyser for ideas To foster the digital thinking throughout the company, the carmaker has introduced a program named DigitalLife@Daimler. Within the scope of the program, Hackathons and roadshows are organised to promote the exchange of ideas to reduce the barriers for the development of new digital technologies and provide incentives for innovative ideas. During the visit of EE Times Europe at MBRDI, the Digital- Life@Daimler roadshow was held at the premises, attracting more than 1700 internal IT experts and many contract suppliers with a wealth of new apps and technologies. Two of the developments are introduced here as examples: • Collaboration of manufacturing robots: one of the robots performed welding tasks on a car body, the other one reviewed the welding spots in an optical process - on the fly, enabling the welding robot to immediately rework the unsuccessful welding. The benefit: Increased productivity. Today the welded joints are reviewed in a subsequent, separate step, involving human interaction and cumbersome paperwork for the rework. • Rescue information stored in an NFC tag: in today’s vehicles, QR codes are attached in several places, containing a link to rescue-relevant information for this car model in the internet. Examples for rescue-relevant information are the location of high-voltage electric cables in HEVs/BEVs, or the best position to cut away the roof in the case of a heavy accident. Instead, the developers suggested to replace the QR codes by NFC tags. The benefit: NFC tags can carry much more information; the rescue team thus has immediate access to the relevant information, regardless of whether a mobile network is available. Within the DigitalLife@Daimler program, Daimler programmers compete for the best ideas. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2015 11


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