Faurecia is looking to grow through acquisitions following the recent sale of its exterior parts business. It is particularly interested in solutions that improve the human-machine interface because its knows that autonomous driving will dramatically change vehicle interiors. The French supplier’s answer to this challenge is the “cockpit of the future.” Patrick Koller, who became Faurecia CEO earlier this year, provided details to Automotive News Europe Correspondent Bruce Gain.
What are the key challenges Faurecia faces related to meeting the forthcoming demand of autonomous driving?
Autonomous driving will shape what we call the "cockpit of the future." We are designing new architectures and interfaces for drivers to enable them to use the extra time they will have in their cars.
Is Faurecia looking to add technologies through acquisitions?
Since we sold our exterior parts business and will be debt free or close to debt free by the end of this year, we will be in the position to make acquisitions. We are clearly looking to add technologies to our portfolio. These include whatever is linked to HMI [human-machine interface] and how you integrate that into the cockpit of the future.
How will safety and comfort factor into your cockpit of the future?
There are two areas consumers will never compromise on: safety and comfort. During the initial period when autonomous cars are adopted, most other cars will not have autonomous driving capabilities. The two will exist together. Safety, of course, is absolutely critical. Drivers must always be able to take back control of the car. But with less driving to do, motorists will require, for example, larger screens that can also be removed and put away. There will be a much wider range of seat positions, such as being able to fold them back more in a reclining position as you relax or even sleep in your car as it drives itself. We are developing new interior architectures to accommodate this change. This includes the position of seat belts when you are reclining, the way the airbags are activated in case of a collision and the direction of air conditioning and heat flow. As you let the car do more of the driving, for example, you might want to read. To do that, we need to adjust the position of the arm rests and lighting so that you can read more comfortably. All these things need to be taken into consideration.