Virtual car key, Lidar sensors and more: Valeo flexes its muscles

November 14, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The French automotive supplier Valeo S.A. does not make it to the headlines very frequently. Typically, the company prefers to strengthen its customer relationships work far from the glare of the media spotlight and directly with the carmakers. And actually, more or less all European and American as well as many Asian OEMs are among Valeo's customers. In a departure from its traditional stance the company recently staged a media day at the Hockenheim race track and introduced some of its pre-series developments and technology studies to journalists. And voilá, the tier one from Paris proved to be at eye level with the premier league of automotive electrics and electronics, and to be a serious contender to the likes of Bosch, ZF and Continental.

With sales of more than 12 billion euros (2013) and almost 80.000 employees in 29 countries, Valeo is truly a global player. The 51 R&D centres the company is running share out an R&D budget of €1.1 billion in total. Driven by high demand in all automotive electronics segments from connectivity to powertrain and lighting, the company currently experiences strong growth; by 2020 Valeo expects sales in the magnitude of € 20 billion, explained Alexander Ziems, Group President Germany, at the event. The management has defined two strategic growth fields - one is CO2 reduction which includes all technologies aiming at better fuel efficiency; the other one is defined geographically: Valeo is committed to expand its business in Asia and hopes to grow particularly strong in that geography.

At the event, the company showcased a number of designs and technology study to near-series maturity. Here are three examples I found particularly striking:

InBlue: the virtual car key is a technology that facilitates car sharing, be it on a business level, among friends orwithin the  family. The system turns the smartphone into the car key. It enables car owners to share and distribute a virtual key to family members, friends, or business partners by means of a smartphone app (plus the backend software that runs on a server operated by the OEM or a service provider). InBlue also allows the manager or owner to manage the virtual keys currently active, to set up limitations in terms of time, and to revoke the permission. The receiving persons cannot pass on their virtual key - they just get a data token that is valid only in connection with their smartphone. "This system is already reality, it will enter series production at a major OEM in 2016", explained Valeo R&D Vice President Jean-Francois Tarrabia. The system connects to the vehicle via a Bluetooth link and anticipates that the vehicle is equipped with a keyless