Leading interiors supplier Yanfeng has repeatedly heard the same question from automakers since debuting its futuristic Experience in Motion 2020 (XiM20) concept last year: What does this have that we can put into our next-generation models? The answer is inside the recently launched XiM21, which has production-ready features such as zero-gravity seats and its proprietary Smart Cabin Controller that acts as the brain of the interior. Last year Yanfeng, the No. 19 partsmaker in Automotive News Europe's current ranking of global suppliers, decided to combine the R&D activities of its interiors, seating, electronics, safety and exteriors divisions into a new unit called Yanfeng Technology. Han Hendriks, who leads that business, recently spoke to Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc about what to expect inside next-generation vehicles.
There are so many different functions working in the interior at the same time. How do you get all these separate pieces to move in the right direction?
If you have seen the increase in both digital and automated functions in the interior, you know that to create a meaningful, intuitive in-car experience, it's not just a matter of turning lights or music on and off or increasing the temperature. What is crucial is how these features and functions work together as a whole. The choreography of what happens and when it happens is crucial.
What’s the solution?
Some functions you want to happen in parallel, some you want to happen sequentially. With that vision in mind, we started developing our own domain control unit. We call it our Smart Cabin Controller. It's a central brain of the interior. Based on 70-plus use cases, we have been able to have our Smart Cabin Controller choreograph these functions. That means if you want to create a certain mood or if you want to personalize the interior, you don't have to do everything individually. You have settings or modes you can go to. In addition, things happen behind the scenes. What I mean is that if the vehicle recognizes that you do not have your hands on the wheel it automatically starts to tighten the seat belt. That means the safety features in the interior are also choreographed and running off this Smart Cabin Controller. This is not being done in isolation, but as part of a bigger whole.
How has the Smart Cabin Controller evolved over the last year?
In the XiM20 concept from last year we also created the impression of a central brain where a lot of these functions happen. It was very well choreographed. But to create that effect in the previous vehicle, we had 19 laptops hidden in the trunk running these simulations. As you can imagine, it was quite an effort to keep everything working for demonstration purposes. It was just very complicated. To our great happiness we now have a production-ready chip -- our own Smart Cabin Controller -- that is doing all the work. It's incredibly robust. Therefore, we are not concerned about doing a demonstration in front of any automaker's board of management because we know it's ready.
Did you create that chip in-house?
Yes, we did it 100 percent ourselves.