In the future vehicle users will decide how they wish to spend their drive. Whether they choose to work, relax or drive the car themselves: Electronically controlled seats, screens and storage areas assume coordinated positions and the air flow of the air conditioning adjusts. The supplier Brose connects all elements of the vehicle interior, enabling users to enjoy maximum comfort in a wide range of driving situations. Thanks to the family-owned company’s many years of mechatronics expertise, many of the innovative functions are already available for the next generation of vehicles.

While driving autonomously on the highway, a warning suddenly sounds: “Obstacle ahead, please take control!” In a few seconds, the seat moves from the reclining position to an upright, secure state. The table in the center console retracts simultaneously and the steering wheel returns to the driving position. The driver can react quickly and take over the wheel to avoid the hazardous situation.

To make such future scenarios possible, automotive supplier Brose is networking its mechatronic components with sensors and software to create intelligent overall systems. At the same time, the company is constantly developing its portfolio of seat structures and interior components to offer new functions.

Rail system with data interface

A new type of long seat rail from Brose provides extra flexibility: if desired, the back seat can rearrange to form two individual seats with power adjuster features that allow passengers to fully recline inside the vehicle for ultimate relaxation – or the interior can adapt to offer maximum cargo space. Large and small interior elements can be moved independently of each other on the concealed rail system. Footrests or storage areas, for example, are only visible when they are actually needed and are otherwise stowed away to save space.

With the help of anchors that can be integrated into the seat rail, so-called cargo modules, the entire vehicle can be used as a cargo area. Transport boxes or even pets can be secured with the modules, or e-scooters can be connected to them. An integrated data and power interface enables additional functions, such as charging batteries or controlling the temperature of coolers. As an alternative to flexible positioning on the rail, the interfaces can also be integrated at fixed points in the cargo area.

Vehicles with this innovative rail technology could go into series production as early as 2025. The solution is particularly suitable for manufacturers working on new interior concepts with extended functions. Brose is currently in talks with several automakers.

New engine technology

The supplier has also applied its many years of experience in the drive sector to electronically commutated motors for seat adjustment. These operate significantly faster and quieter than conventional variants. In the event of an imminent accident, they move passengers into an upright position in a fraction of a second to ensure adequate protection. This is necessary, for example, to be able to safely use the reclining function of seats while on the move. In regular, changing driving situations, the newly developed motors provide up to five times the adjustment speed of current seats. This enables significantly faster adjustment of the interior and thus greater flexibility and comfort for vehicle users.

Radar sensors for safety

When seats move and fold down automatically, passengers and the interior must be protected from harm and damages. Brose has developed powerful radar sensors for this collision protection. Their precise and reliable operation is what makes many new comfort experiences possible in the first place. In addition, the sensors can take on other tasks: From parking assistance and anti-theft protection to interior monitoring, which can also detect and distinguish between small children or pets.

Software for intelligent function networking

New possibilities only add to comfort if they are be easy to operate. Brose has developed the “BRAIN – Brose Access and Interior Network” software for easy configuration and coordination of the various functions. Depending on the vehicle’s electronics architecture, the software is installed on one or more central processing units that can control both company components and third-party products. The vehicle manufacturer or the users themselves use an intuitive configuration program to determine how they want the car’s comfort functions to behave in various situations. BRAIN then translates these wishes into control signals and coordinates the movement of the components involved. New functions can be added quickly and easily. Thanks to a connection to the cloud, individual settings can be automatically transferred to new vehicles, for example in car sharing. This also makes new business models possible in which the user can book additional functions permanently (“add-on”) or for a limited time (“pay-per-use”) – for example an invigorating back massage.

Author: Christian Hößbacher-Blum