LAS VEGAS – TRW had applied several months ago to be one of more than 3,500 companies exhibiting at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, held here this past week, but show organizers didn’t approve the multinational automotive electronics and safety supplier until October.
What followed was a few months of chaos because TRW had never been to this massive exposition that crosses literally every line of consumer electronics, from televisions, high-definition digital music and personal computers to fitness equipment, smartphones, connectivity tools and beyond.
Despite the team having to work through the holidays to design and prepare the exhibit to accommodate a transparent acrylic car revealing TRW technologies inside, the supplier is pleased with its first year at the show and wants to come back.
“It was a very good experience for us,” Carsten Hass, the supplier’s engineering manager-automated driving, tells WardsAuto.
“We had some fruitful discussions about vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and cloud computing – getting information into a cloud and then getting it back into a vehicle,” he says. “Those are things we have in our focus. It’s not on our roadmap yet because we want to start with onboard sensors as we have them. But we get a broad overview of what’s happening and who is working on what.”
More than 170,000 analysts, techies, executives, purchasing agents, company representatives and others attended this year’s CES from around the world to learn what’s new and on the horizon.
“We were curious, too. Who will come to our booth?” Hass says. “An insurance company was talking to me about automated driving, how we see the future and what challenges exist” by way of liability.
TRW was well-positioned at the Las Vegas Convention Center in the automotive cluster, which included automakers (Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes, Fiat Chrysler, Audi, Toyota and Hyundai), Tier 1 suppliers (Delphi, Magna and Denso) and smaller suppliers of audio and vision systems and electric-vehicle chargers.
Outside the main halls, BMW and Volkswagen had dedicated pavilions for offering test drives, and Visteon, Delphi, Valeo and Bosch offered test drives of vehicles with self-driving or advanced safety features.
CES Provides 'High Level of Engagement'
TRW also has a partially automated prototype vehicle, and Hass says his team will decide whether to offer rides at next year’s CES.
TRW spokesman John Wilkerson says booth visitors came from all sectors, including smartphone producers envisioning greater connectivity with future vehicles.
“We’ve seen people from small startups. A couple interested people came in looking at how we work with camera technology in the vehicle and how we could make the packaging smaller, or how we could make the wiring harnesses simpler,” he says.
Wilkerson says CES provided a “high level of engagement” with TRW’s automaker customers. “We had a number of our heads of various customer teams here meeting with either purchasing, engineering or the people looking at the future of R&D at those companies,” he says.
The cool acrylic car wasn’t bad for foot traffic, either. “It’s been a real eye opener,” Wilkerson says.
“We’ve seen lots of people just kind of walking by. They would have just probably zipped on by, but they take a look and say, ‘What’s that?’ A lot of people here have no idea we have that wide of a product line.”
More than a decade ago, at least in the auto industry, it appeared large trades shows such as CES had become passe for many big suppliers that had gained access to private meetings with automakers. For instance, SAE International’s World Congress in Detroit suffered a mass exodus of big Tier 1s in the early 2000s.
Wilkerson sees CES as a good show that allows TRW to have extensive discussions with automakers as well as companies from other electronics sectors with technologies that could be useful in automotive.
“That’s been the litmus test for what we’ve done with exhibitions over the last several years,” he says. “We’re either direct onsite at an automaker, or we’re at a show where OEMs and suppliers are both exhibiting together and then having meetings and discussions.”
TRW has exhibited at major auto shows in Frankfurt and Shanghai but not Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, which begins this week.
That may change next year after German supplier ZF is expected to complete its acquisition of TRW in the first half. ZF has exhibited at the NAIAS for many years and will be there again this year.