Tata Elxsi aims to become one of the top five automotive electronics product design and development service providers in the world.
With global OEMs and parts makers eyeing more options to enhance safety and other features in their products, sourcing of innovative automotive electronics solutions from India-based technology providers has been increasing in the past five years.
The Bangalore-headquartered Tata Elxsi is one among a few companies in the country that have acted quickly to cash in on this opportunity. The company has, since long, offered a variety of solutions in the automotive electronics (AE) segment to cater to the needs of both domestic and international vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 component makers.
Talking to Autocar Professional, Anil Sondur, vice-president - Embedded Software & Engineering Service, Transportation Industry, Tata Elxsi, says the company is capable of working on a host of automotive electronics products for passenger cars and commercial vehicles.
The AE segment witnessed rapid growth in the past 10 years, particularly in India. Ten years ago, only a few sections in vehicles like the engine control system and audio network were supported by electronics. But today, in value terms, around 40 percent of the vehicle is electronically controlled, Sondur claims.
Through its four business divisions – Embedded Product Design, Industrial Design, Visual Computing Labs and System Integration – the company designs products in several fields including automotive, consumer products, energy, wireless communications, health care and defence.
In recent years, the company’s contribution to the AE sector has been growing on the back of increasing importance for electronically controlled units in vehicles across the world, he adds.
Tata Elxsi’s total revenue for fiscal year 2011-12 stood at Rs 514.86 crore. Of this, 22-24 percent was contributed by the AE sector, up from 17-18 percent recorded in the previous fiscal.
“Going forward, we expect our AE segment share in the total business to touch 26 percent in the current financial year,” he adds. The company had spent 3.1 percent of its total revenue on Research and Development (R&D) in the last fiscal.
“Currently we are in the list of top five companies in AE product design segment in India. Our aim is to become one among the top five AE product design and development service providers in the world in the next five years,” says Sondur.
The company offers its services to leading Indian and international OEMs and Tier 1 auto component makers. Its key clients include Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Isuzu, Nissan, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Lear, Fuji Heavy Industries, Visteon and Magna.
While the company is offering software solutions in many automotive areas, it also develops hardware for some key products.
Automotive electronics products
Tata Elxsi has developed a good number of products for the automotive industry. Sondur cites the Rotary Electronic Actuator for Variable Geometric Turbocharger, Gateway ECU module, DC-DC converter for Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), Advanced Driver Assistance-Driver Drowsiness Detection Systems, Battery Management Systems for hybrid Vehicles and touch panel-based infotainment system as a few prime products. He, however, did not disclose the projects developed for specific companies as Tata Elxsi has signed non-disclosure agreements with its clients.
He elaborates that the auto industry is witnessing an increasing demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, and networked connectivity within vehicles. On the lines of tapping potential in this area, he says the company had partnered with a Korean auto component supplier to design and develop the turbocharger actuator. The rotary electronics actuator controls the vane of the turbocharger present in vehicles, thereby enabling better fuel efficiency.
Due to regulatory pressure for stringent emission and safer transport from various governments across the world, the demand for intelligent electronics is expected to increase substantially. Tata Elxsi is engaging with leading OEMs and systems suppliers in the development of next-generation hybrid engine technologies, active, and passive safety systems in the vehicle.
In the next 10 years, he says there will be a major shift in terms of hybrid technology given the fact that most global vehicle manufacturers are heavily investing in this field. When the demand increases for hybrid vehicles, he says, in value terms, the share of electronically controlled components in the vehicle is expected to go up to 80 percent.
As part of its contribution to the hybrid sector, the company has developed an Electronic Gateway Unit, which interfaces with multiple electronic control units (ECU) comprising CAN and LIN networks within a hybrid vehicle, for a Japanese automotive manufacturer. This ECU had been developed in compliance to AUTOSAR standards.
Tata Elxsi has also developed in-house control strategy models for battery management systems and physical models for batteries for hybrid vehicles.
Another prime product that the company developed is a reference design for a DC-DC converter that generates the 12V required for hybrid vehicles with load characteristics of 2.5 KW. This DC-DC converter converts the high voltage power stored in the battery packs to the low voltage power needed for the automotive bus system.
Yet another interesting product is the Advanced Driver Assistance-Driver Drowsiness Detection System (DDDS). The company has actively invested in developing strategy algorithms to address the active safety market. Most accidents take place in the peak sleep hours from 12 pm to 5am. The DDDS is designed to address this issue, he elaborates.
The driver drowsiness system continuously monitors the status of the driver in vehicle. The system alerts the driver the moment it detects any drowsiness with the driver, helping to avoid accidents. The company has already delivered this embedded solution to an automotive component supplier based in the US.
Growing interest in infotainment space
Infotainment is one of the areas that Tata Elxsi has been investing heavily as vehicle and component manufacturers are relying heavily on comfort electronics that go into the car. The company is a core member of the GENIVI Alliance and a member of the CE Connectivity Expert Group. It has developed a touch panel-based Infotainment system on an Intel Atom Processor running on a GENIVI-recommended platform with representative features as media player, phone connect and view, television and podcasts.
With an around 4,000-strong workforce, Tata Elxsi has development centres in Trivandrum, Chennai, and Pune in addition to Bangalore. Of this manpower, around 900 engineers are engaged in developing solutions pertaining to the AE sector.
Huge business opportunity
Despite the slowdown since 2008, Sondur claims the global AE industry has been growing steadily. Citing reports, he says the AE market that stood at $114 billion in 2008, climbed to $126 billion in 2009, $133 billion in 2010 and touched $139 billion in 2011. The market size is expected to expand to $145 billion in the current year and touch $174 billion in 2013.
Among other segments, infotainment and aftermarket sectors are growing fast in the global AE market. The global infotainment market is likely to expand from $20.35 billion in 2008 to $28.82 billion in the current year and projected to touch $33 billion in 2013. The electronics-backed aftermarket products market is estimated to increase to $36.49 billion in 2013 from $29.31 billion in 2008. Tata Elxsi has a strong presence in both these sectors.
India’s share in the global AE market is estimated in the range of 2 to 4 percent. Currently, Tata Elxsi records nearly a quarter of its business from the AE sector. Sondur says a whopping 40 percent of its AE business comes from infotainment and telematics services followed by 30 percent from Body and Chassis while Powertrain and Hybrids contribute 20 percent and the remaining 10 percent comes through Safety & Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) applications.
Under telematics and infotainment, the company has solutions for in-car connectivity, front and rear seat entertainment, driver information, navigation, remote vehicle interactions. Its powertrain and hybrid offerings include solutions for engine management, transmission and hybrid controllers. Its list of service in the Safety and Security segment covers the areas like airbag, immobilisers, PEPS and CLSS, blind spot warning, night vision, driver drowsiness, park assistance and lane departure warning. Its solutions in body and chassis electronics cover segments like lighting, instrument cluster, steering, HVAC control, seating, door and roof systems, braking, suspension and rear spoilers.
Given all these strengths, Tata Elxsi is well placed to make the most of the global boom in auto electronics.