ZF self-driving car prototypeEnlarge Photo
Combining their understanding of cameras and radar, German automotive suppliers Hella and ZF have entered into a strategic partnership that they say will pave the way forward for their efforts in teh field of self-driving cars.
The two firms made their announcement Tuesday at a joint press conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, where they emphasized their individual strengths. Hella says the partnership will allow it to share its knowledge of short-range radar and 360-degree camera technology, while ZF will bring its mid- and long-range camera understanding to the table. While neither firm makes cars, both are Tier 1 suppliers to nearly every major global automaker.
The announcement represents the largest partnership on the road to self-driving cars yet, and ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer told the media that it is the result of considerably increased demand from automakers for high-function self-driving car technology.
"We underestimated the speed [of self-driving car development]," Sommer told the media. "What we anticipated for 2025 has arrived today."
Both companies say that they intend to rely on third parties for software and will instead continue to focus on developing hardware for self-driving cars. About 80 percent of Hella's business is automotive, split about evenly between light technology and a unit that focuses on cameras/radar, while much larger ZF handles everything from transmissions and shock absorbers to electric car componentry.
Sommer told reporters that much of the demand for self-driving cars has come from automakers looking to do well in Euro NCAP and IIHS crash testing, which place increasing emphasis on autonomous driving tech like automatic front and rear emergency braking.