Jet Optoelectronics CEO Jerry Lin is adding engineers to link smart phones to rear seat entertainment systems. (Terry Costlow)

Android, CarPlay alter Taiwanese companies' strategies

The expanding role of smart phones in automotive environments is altering aftermarket and OEM strategies throughout Taiwan, forcing vendors of diverse products to expand their efforts to integrate phones into their products. Suppliers are ramping up software teams and altering designs to address changing consumer tastes.

Taiwan’s auto electronics output soared 10% in 2016, hitting U.S.$5.6 billion, according to the Taiwan Transportation Vehicle Manufacturers Assoc. Nearly half of that, 43%, went to the U.S. The Association noted that 80% of Taiwan’s exports go to the aftermarket.

Suppliers recently visited by SAE's Automotive Engineering are still targeting OEMs in China and the U.S., but several of them continue to focus primarily on aftermarket products. Many said margins are lower with OEMs, curtailing profits, while aftermarket buyers are more willing to buy the latest technologies.

“OEMs take a long time to move, to push new technologies we need to have aftermarket operations,” said Jerry Lin, CEO of Jet Optoelectronics Co. “When OEMs see products, they’ll say they want something similar.”

Most companies interviewed by AE are gearing up their efforts to integrate smart phones into electronic systems.

“We’re planning to go from around 20 software engineers to 30-35,” said Daniel Tsai, general manager of Jet Optoelectronics Co. “We’re really focusing on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, doing things like letting stuff on the phone go to the rear seat entertainment screens.”

Head-up displays are among the development areas being impacted by phones. E-Lead Electronics Co. plans to unveil combiner units that can be easily integrated into vehicles at the 2018 Taipei AMPA/Autotronics conference in April.

“Android and CarPlay have a major impact on what customers want in HUD,” said Jacky Yang, marketing specialist at E-Lead Electronic Co. “Consumers want the HUD to connect to their smart phone to display things like song titles and navigation information.

One E-lead system uses a projector mounted on the ceiling, making it easy for aftermarket installation. Images are shown on a plastic combiner screen mounted on the dashboard. Another version embeds the projector in the dashboard module.

Phone technologies even impact suspension controls. SH Auto Parts, which makes air suspension systems, now lets drivers adjust air pressure levels using phones in addition to a dedicated remote control system.

Taiwan’s suppliers are also grappling to find a role in the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) market. Cameras and radar systems fit the model for many suppliers, making this rapidly growing segment an attractive target.

However, the increased complexity of ADAS programs may impact the ability of aftermarket suppliers to compete. Emerging safety systems combine sensors with braking and steering control, which are difficult for aftermarket providers to access.

“ADAS systems work best if you sell to the OEM,” said Lily Chen, Sales Manager at Cub Elecparts Inc. “We also want to do ADAS for the aftermarket, but you can’t integrate with the brakes in an aftermarket product.”

Nonetheless, Cub is ramping up production of its radar sensing line, adding a production line to meet growing demand for OEM systems and aftermarket designs that alert drivers to help them avoid accidents. The latter systems will work somewhat like SAE Level 3 and 4 systems, alerting drivers with lights and/or sounds when accidents may be imminent.

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