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Connected cars take centre stage at the world’s leading trade fair
The central theme at this year’s Automechanika Frankfurt – billed as the world’s largest showcase for the independent aftermarket – was Tomorrow’s Service & Mobility.
A record 4 820 exhibitors from 76 countries took part in the event – which was held in Frankfurt, Germany, in mid-September – and they offered an impressive demonstration of the ways in which the automotive industry is changing as connected cars come to the fore.
Key areas of the exhibition included e-mobility, telematics systems and solutions for networking vehicles, and a number of companies had on display technical solutions designed to deal with tomorrow’s perceived mobility requirements.
Driverless cars were much in evidence, such as the Advanced Urban Vehicle displayed by ZF. The experimental model was packed full of technologies and safety equipment to demonstrate the company’s take on what it thinks will be needed for successful operation of partially autonomous and completely driverless vehicles.
Exhibits relating to battery technology and charging systems were also highlighted, including a wireless induction system demonstrated by Bombardier Primove.
In the workshop of the future, digitalisation, big data and e-mobility are set to change procedures and processes. Central among the Automechanika exhibits were systems designed to remotely transfer repair information from car to technician; speed up the ordering and provision of spare parts, and conduct preventive prognostic diagnosis.
Dr Uwe Thomas, president of Bosch’s Automotive Aftermarket Division, said workshops and the aftermarket were on the brink of a new era. “For workshops, connected mobility is the wave of the future. As a result, the themes of networking, digitalisation and augmented reality were in particular demand at our stand this year.”
In the body repair sector, vehicle-specific digitalisation was deemed to be one of the major keys to unlocking new technical possibilities. At the DAT stand, for example, a display demonstrated how hail damage to a vehicle could be calculated remotely using nothing more than stored data obtained from the OEM and a digital photo of the car.
As well as traditional business involving private customers, services provided for fleet operators look set to become increasingly important to the aftermarket in the future, driven by the burgeoning in Europe of car-sharing models.
Several exhibitors presented their solutions for issues such as how vehicle fleets are likely to be organised; how renting and return procedures will develop and how workshop services and repairs will be scheduled and managed.
The world of spares is also undergoing change. Irrespective of the ways in which the relationship between private vehicle users and car-sharing users develop, the overriding perquisite is that cars will need to be back on the road speedily.
At the Materials & Parts section of the show, the emphasis by parts and component manufacturers – as well as software and logistics service providers – was on 3D printing, which is seen as solution to facilitate quick turnaround. A number of companies exhibited their latest wares, among them MarkerBot and Ricoh.
At the show’s Innovation Awards, Continental Tyres was the big winner, the company taking victory in two major categories – the Green Award, which was presented for the first time, and the Accessories and Customising section.
The product that wowed the judges was the Conti WinterContact tyre that utilises Taraxagum, made from dandelions, for its tread. The company has collaborated with several partners to develop a new source for the raw material, lessening the need to clear tropical rain forests for the cultivation of rubber trees. The jury judged this to be the most sustainable innovation entered in the 2016 contest.
The competition attracted 130 entries, 58 of them from German companies and 72 from other countries, representing an increase of about 30% in the number of international entries. The eight category winners were:
Parts and Components: Robert Bosch for its ultra-light motorcycle battery using lithium technology. It provides four times the service life, is leak-proof and can be installed in any position.
Electronics and Systems: On Board Defence for it Portector which is a professionally-installed, tamper-proof device that prevents vehicle theft without a key. Portector prevents non-authorised communication with the vehicle’s systems using an on board diagnostic (OBD) port.
Accessories and Customising: Continental for the use of Taraxagum dandelion rubber in the tread of its WinterContact tyres.
Repair and Diagnostics: NGK Spark Plugs Europe for developing the world’s most compact and lightest multi-gas meter. It supports engine/vehicle testing facilities and the emissions test under realistic conditions.
Repair and Maintenance: Corghi, of Italy, for its Uniformity tyre fitting machine which is the first with a diagnostic function. It uses a press roll and laser sensors to detect rim and tyre defects. It then tells the tyre specialist step-by-step how to mount the tyre radially on the rim, resolving vibration problems.
Management and Digital Solutions: AVL DiTest of Germany for its Smart Service 4.0 AVL DiTest system which aims to connect intelligent telematics solutions with the workshop service department. Having information on future service needs enables service providers to improve planning and replacement parts procurement.
Car Wash, Care and Reconditioning: WashTec Cleaning Technology, of Germany, for its multi-plex side washing system which pivots backwards on the roll axis when washing the rear of a vehicle. It adapts to the contours of the vehicle and washes them with maximum contact, including under the rear spoiler, into the bumper recesses and around the C pillars.
OE Products and Services: The Valeo Scala is the first laser scanner for automotive mass production. It is set to be a key factor in automated driving as it has a large detection range and a wide field of view combined with high accuracy.
Another feature of Automechanika was the Truck Competence display, which signified the growing importance of the transport sector for aftermarket service providers.
Major global manufacturers of components and systems, such as ZF Continental, Jost and WABCO, were among the host of exhibitors offering new and innovative solutions for transport operators. These ranged from brake pads and linings to turbochargers and from spanners to paint spray booths.
System and component suppliers, as well as OEMs, are always looking for ways to reduce fuel consumption and emissions from vehicles and many innovative solutions were on display at Frankfurt.
Lightweight materials, new methods of construction and the adoption of electric-drive were among the exhibits featured, along with technical assistance systems that enable fuel saving by anticipating road conditions.
While commercial vehicles are perceived by many as practical beasts of burden, for some in the transport business trucks can also be used in motor sport events, including rally-raids such as the Dakar or for track racing, and several examples of trucks used in motor sport were on display.