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Altran expands to Detroit, brings passive safety solutions to U.S.


This feature is courtesy of Driven, the story of how the Detroit region is leading the world in next-generation mobility.

Pedestrian passive safety is a concept that means little to the average American, yet it’s been part of vehicle safety development in Europe for nearly a decade.

Altran, the largest global, multi-industry engineering, research, and development powerhouse, with $3 billion in revenue and 45,000 employees in 20 countries--but relative newcomer to the Detroit region--has deep expertise in pedestrian passive safety. Altran’s skilled workforce has been testing pedestrian passive safety solutions, as well as airbags and vehicle interiors, in its World Class Passive Safety Center in Wixom since opening in November, 2107. The center joins others of its kind operated by Altran in Austria, Germany, Canada, and France.

Known as active bonnet or active hood, these passive safety systems work to decrease injury to pedestrians in the case of impact, and in some cases, the need for these systems can drive the design of the vehicle. Manufacturers that export vehicles to Europe know all about active bonnet systems, but it’s just a matter of time before domestic vehicle models will be required to incorporate this type of safety technology, says Sebastian Wipfler, manager of the Altran’s World Class Center in Wixom.

“If you are driving a car, you can work to prevent an accident, but if there is an accident, the car has to be developed to give the pedestrian the highest chance to survive,” says Wipfler. European regulations require testing to prove that vehicles will do minimal damage to pedestrians on impact.

Here in the U.S., there were 5,376 pedestrian fatalities in 2015, an increase from the previous year.

“The automotive industry is continually working to make cars safer, and one of the critical elements of making a car driverless is managing the safety,” says Mohan Raju, Altran head of automotive North America."We all work to prevent collision using active safety, or maneuvering the car using technology, and this is essentially the work going on in the autonomous vehicle space.”

Until driverless vehicles are mainstream in the market, passive safety measures that minimize or eliminate injury to pedestrians and passengers are an important part of future automotive safety regulations in the U.S.

“Europe is ahead of the U.S. in passive safety, particularly in pedestrian safety,” Raju says.

Expanding to the U.S.

While Altran could have located its center in several locations here in the U.S., the Detroit region’s dense population of vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, robust global automotive leadership, and automotive engineering talent made Michigan the most attractive and smartest choice.

Altran clients, including OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, were seeking a local presence of expertise, and Altran recognized the market opportunity. The scouting process began in 2016, when the head of the Altran World Class Center in Graz, Austria met informally with members of the Destination Detroit team of the Detroit Regional Chamber, and asked some smart questions.

Detroit’s automotive reputation solidified Altran’s decision quickly. While it may make sense for startups to consider the west coast, every automotive resource has a presence in the Detroit region.

“Where is the best place to be for automotive? You always end up in the Detroit area,” says Wipfler. “Even west coast companies, most of them now have offices here. The Tier 1s are here. Everyone needs to be present in the Detroit area. That’s what we saw.”

When Altran was ready to focus in and select a location for its testing facility, it returned to the connection it had made with the Destination Detroit team.

“From our conversations, we learned Detroit is where they wanted to be. For automotive engineering and R&D, this is the hub, and the customers they were looking for and the leadership in the auto industry are all here,” says Will Butler, business development representative with the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Butler and his team took a deep dive and learned that Altran needed a site on a moderate parcel of land that could accommodate a 500-foot straight track for testing, and be enclosed by fencing to maintain client confidentiality. They researched dozens of locations, and brought on board a real estate expert to find just the right building, in an appropriate location, that could accommodate customization on a tight schedule.

“It was a little bit like a puzzle, and certainly an interesting challenge,” says Butler. “As economic developers, we want projects to be easy and quick, and we worked hard to help Altran find just what they needed. Speed to market is the name of the game.”

Support on the ground

Assuming the quarterback role, the Destination Detroit team kept the project on track and moving forward by tapping into a deep network of experts, including county and city departments that responded quickly and worked to provide approval for the site’s specific needs.

Ultimately, Altran’s successful expansion into the Detroit region--and into the United States-- was a collaborative effort between Destination Detroit, Oakland County, and the city of Wixom. Destination Detroit’s long standing experience in the needs of advanced automotive industries helped Altran meet its goals for growth.

“The people at Destination Detroit were very helpful all along,” says Raju. “Once we chose our building, it needed special approvals from the city of Wixom to be built to our needs, and the Detroit Regional Chamber helped us coordinate with the city to get the approvals.”

Now In operation with about eight employees in Wixom, Altran plans to grow to a staff of 25 within a couple of years.

“Altran has a very large global presence, but we are relatively new to the North American market. For us to get entry into this region as a service provider to any of the OEMs or Tier1s, we have to be ahead of the game, and better at something that not many other providers can offer,” says Raju. “One of our entry strategies was to bring in the World Class Center for Passive Safety in Detroit, and expand into offering each OEM all the other services we can provide. We have some of the best facilities in Europe, and this is a footprint for us to expand our offerings to the North American market.”

With mobility as a key area of expertise, Altran is poised to provide a diverse portfolio of services to its clients from its World Class Center in Wixom.

“We are working to focus on a combination of local delivery with Austrian expertise and Indian engineering capability to provide cost effective, highly skilled solutions in the area of passive safety to clients in the Detroit area, and across the U.S. in general," Raju says.

“Our strategy is to enter with a high level of expertise, drive cost efficiency, and engage for the long term.”

Visit Driven and learn how the Detroit region is leading the world in next-generation mobility.
 

Esys Automation breaks ground on new building

Esys Automation began a new chapter in its history this week by breaking ground on a new building located on Brown Rd., just east of Joslyn Rd. in Auburn Hills, MI. A groundbreaking ceremony was held, which included a majority of the Esys team and representatives from the developer JB Donaldson, the State of Michigan, Oakland County and the City of Auburn Hills.

“We are very pleased to be able to expand and stay in our home city of Auburn Hills,” said Dave Valentine, president of Esys Automation. “A very special thanks to the City of Auburn Hills, Oakland County and the State of Michigan for supporting our efforts and providing significant incentives to remain here.”

The new 125,000  square-foot facility will allow Esys to consolidate its current two Auburn Hills locations into one space. The new facility will have 40,000 square-feet of office space and 85,000 square-feet of shop space, allowing Esys to continue its significant growth. Construction is set to complete late fall 2018.

About Esys Automation 
Esys Automation is a leading full-service automation solutions provider to the automotive industry. Esys provides automation design, simulation, and machine building, including advanced robotic systems and industry-specific software solutions. Esys specializes in vehicle assembly applications in areas such as press, powertrain, plastics, body assembly, paint, sealer, final assembly, and tire & wheel. Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Esys Automation operates globally. Learn more about Esys Automation at esysautomation.com.

Royal Oak-based Vectorform and Microsoft Partner to expand HoloLens technology for automotive design

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Royal Oak’s Vectorform, a digital product and experiences company with capabilities in mixed reality design and engineering, announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corp. to innovate vehicle design and the prototyping processes for the automotive industry.

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Metro Detroit cities prepare for autonomous vehicles with smart infrastructure

Last spring, Terry Croad started attending quarterly meetings of the Michigan Connected and Automated Vehicle Working Group. As Southfield’s director of planning, he hoped to stay abreast of the latest technology advancements as well as regulatory, financial, security, and other issues tied to the rapidly advancing ecosystem of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Often, he’d be the only planner in a room full of engineers, computer programmers, transportation experts, economic development leaders, and security and defense officials.

Southfield is getting a head start on the inevitable infrastructure changes mobility will require. “We’re already starting to tweak a little bit our land-use pattern and our regulation, and I think as this becomes more and more integrated into our daily lives, it’s going to have a significant impact on the way we park and use cars,” Croad says.

All Metro Detroit cities could look a lot different in the not-so-distant future thanks to the advent of autonomous vehicles and innovative mobility services.

Features we now take for granted, like 10- to 12-foot-wide driving lanes and expansive parking lots, could be rendered unnecessary in areas where people use connected, driverless cars, or ride-sharing platforms to get from point A to point B.

That’s why it’s crucial for local government officials to stay on top of the latest developments in connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology and adjust their infrastructure and land-use plans accordingly, says Croad.

Experts estimate that autonomous vehicles will be commonplace within 15 to 20 years. “As a [planning] profession, we need to be embracing this earlier than later ... The earlier we start talking about it and getting our elected officials at least aware that this is coming, better off we’re all going to be,” he says.

Southfield even included a section on “innovative transportation opportunities” in the master plan it updated in 2016. It stressed the need to be proactive to understand the impacts of such advancements so it could better plan and invest for the future.

That kind of awareness is one of the biggest things communities can do to prepare for CAVs, says Valerie Sathe Brugeman, senior project manager at the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. Brugeman recently co-authored a “Future Cities” report commissioned by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) on the potential benefits and challenges of CAV technology to communities.

At this point she hasn’t seen Michigan communities drastically change their roads, intersections or pedestrian walkways, but she said big changes could be needed as more people use autonomous or shared vehicles.

Intelligent use of space

Since CAVs should be able to stay in their lanes better than vehicles with drivers, roads of the future could have narrower lanes, allowing more space for pedestrian paths, drop-off lanes or other uses. There’s a possibility these technologies could result in fewer vehicles on the road, meaning fewer lanes would be needed. Or it could have the opposite effect, and result in increased vehicle miles traveled with more people opting to commute further to work or using autonomous cars that drive around with no occupants after drop-offs, Brugeman says.

Parking needs also are expected to change. A driverless car could drop passengers off at their destination and then either park itself off-site, or continue driving to pick up different passengers. That would reduce the need for parking spots in prime locations as well as shrink individual parking space sizes. Autonomous vehicles can park closer together if there are no passengers who need to open doors.

As cities build new parking structures, they should consider making them retrofittable so they could be transformed for office space or recreational use as parking needs decrease, says Brugeman. Communities also could change zoning regulations to dictate the maximum number of parking spots instead of minimum number of spots for particular developments.
Southfield recently conducted an overhaul of its parking standards to take these trends into consideration. Croad wants to reduce the parking ratios required for certain land uses and shrink the space between aisles.

Future planning for Michigan cities

While Southfield is considered ahead of the pack in acknowledging the potential impacts of CAVs and other mobility advancements, it’s not the only Metro Detroit community taking action. Last year the City of Detroit created the Office of Mobility Innovation and named Mark de la Vergne its chief.

“The fact that they now have a chief of mobility innovation is telling of the value they place on the topic and the technologies surrounding it,” Brugeman says.

Detroit recently won a nearly $2.2 million federal grant to deploy vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication and detection technologies at intersections in high-traffic areas in Southwest Detroit, the Riverfront, Corktown, and the Livernois-McNichols corridor. De la Vergne says the connected corridors should improve traffic safety and reduce emergency response times.

The grant will be a jumping off point to understand how and if the city could scale the technology, and what kind of infrastructure it would require.

“Knowing technology is changing a lot, I think that’s the challenge we all face, but at the same time, we want to be able to start getting some of this stuff in the ground so that we can start learning,” de la Vergne says.

Michigan is a national leader when it comes to developing, testing and promoting CAV technology. There are at least 115 dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) roadside units installed throughout the state for vehicle and infrastructure connectivity, according to the Future Cities report. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is partnering with local and state entities to work on several CAV projects, such as allowing transit signal priority to SMART buses in Macomb County with the goal of improving efficiency and reliability.

“We have all these physical assets here that really make this area unique to other parts of the country,” Brugeman says, noting that one of Michigan’s biggest advantages is the collaboration between MDOT and the MEDC in concert with the auto industry, universities and other entities.

“They recognize the need to remain a leader, because there are a lot of other communities that are vying for a leadership position in this race for CAVs,” she says.
 

Humanetics in Farmington Hills creates crash test dummies to increase senior safety

Excerpt

Humanities, a Farmington Hills-based designer, supplier, and manufacturer of crash test dummies and calibration equipment, announced that a dummy designed to address the needs and characteristics of senior drivers and passengers has entered advanced testing for vehicle safety systems. 

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Auto supplier Hella breaks ground for new Northville Township HQ

Excerpt

Automobile industry supplier Hella is relocating its North American headquarters to Northville Township, where it is also planning to expand its work force.

The German company, which develops, builds and markets lighting and electronic components for auto manufacturers and suppliers, recently broke ground for a 115,000-square-foot office and technical center on Technology Drive near Beck Road.

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Martinrea International opens new Auburn Hills facility

Excerpt

Martinrea International Inc. announced the opening of its new state-of-the-art facility in Auburn Hills. The 108,000 sq. ft. structure includes office and lab space for research and development, and houses 160 employees, according to a press release from the supplier.

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Indiana-based AM General opens Technology and Engineering Center in Auburn Hills

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South Bend, Indiana-based global mobility solutions provider AM General announced it has moved into a new Technology and Engineering Center in Auburn Hills. The facility houses engineering, product planning, and prototyping departments along with business development, U.S. defense, and strategic marketing functions.

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Auburn Hills-based Continental debuts fifth-generation radar sensors for autonomous driving

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Auburn Hills-based automotive technology supplier Continental today announced the fifth generation of its short and long range radar sensors, which will enter series production in 2019. The sensors cater to vehicle manufacturers’ varying requirements and electrical-electronic architectures for emerging autonomous vehicle technologies.

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Denso in Southfield, Symbio collaborate on Finnish innovation center

Excerpt

Denso, an automotive component manufacturer with a North American headquarters in Southfield, today announced a plan to open a joint innovation center in Finland with software company Symbio.

The facility will be based in Symbio’s premises in Espoo and activities will begin this year following a letter of intent to establish the innovation center signed on Oct. 24.

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Hart Marx Advisors opens new office in Bloomfield Hills

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Hart Marx Advisors, a consulting firm that assists buys and sellers in the automotive and heavy-duty industries, has opened a new office in Bloomfield Hills, next to its sister company, Marx Group, a full-service marketing communications agency specializing in the automotive and trucking industries.

The new 2,800 square-foot space will offer the company maximum exposure to automotive and commercial vehicle suppliers as the business continues to expand.

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Autoliv breaks ground at new Southfield location

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Autoliv has broken ground in Southfield for their new 180,000 square foot Electronics Technical Center.

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Continental in Auburn Hills develops control element for automated driving

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As autonomous and connected vehicles move closer to commercialization, Auburn Hills-based global automotive supplier Continental announced The Smart Control, an input device that is transparently and intuitively designed to aid the driver’s transition from operator to user of automated driving functions.

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Oakland University offering automotive contractor safety course

Oakland University is now offering a Lockout of Hazardous Energy Control Course (Green Lock Training). This is a safety training course for first, second and third tier automotive industry contractors. 

The course provides the knowledge and skills needed to safely perform lockout for energy sources while working in a typical modern automotive manufacturing facility. It includes a hands-on lab scenario and student manual.

Attendees can select from several dates to take the one-day course throughout the fall.  The next two available dates are Thursday, October 12, 2017 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday, November 9, 2017.  Courses will be held in room 1053 of the Human Health Building located at 433 Meadow Brook Road, Rochester, MI 48309. The course is offered at a fee of $250.   

“We developed this course to meet the training requirements of OSHA, MIOSHA and other state programs,” said Patrick Frazee, M.S., M.A., CIH, CSP, director of Environmental Health and Safety program. “We also built it with automotive industry input and collaboration to fulfill the contractor training requirements for automotive companies.”
 
Highlights of the program include: 
 
•       A six-hour course developed to meet the needs of engineers, contractors, technicians who perform lockout during work activities.
•       Course materials that cover OSHA requirements as well as specific requirements and methods used at General Motors including Safety Control Systems and MPS.
•       Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate and Green safety locks will be provided upon request. 
•       Course instructor(s) have extensive real world experience in automotive and construction/contractor activity.
•       The course is delivered on OU’s campus and includes lab exercises at an MPS robot cell. 
 
To register for either course date, visit the website.
 
For questions about the course, email the instructor, Rob Hart at rhart@oakland.edu.

Toyota's commercial truck division builds Novi headquarters

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Toyota's commercial truck division broke ground in Novi earlier this month on a $19 million U.S. headquarters.

Hino Trucks and Hino Motors Manufacturing, which specializes in medium-duty trucks, will consolidate several departments, now based at facilities in Novi and Farmington Hills, after the two-story, 124,000-square-foot building underway on 12 Mile, near Taft, is completed, which is expected to be late next year.

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91 Automotive Articles | Page: | Show All
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