#roadtripsweden: The steersman for the future of driving

20.03.2019

On their road trip to Arvidsjaur, Sweden, our automotive experts test their high-tech components under extreme conditions. But who really cares about turning promising concepts into real solutions for the road? The answer: technology managers like Julian Beckmann. He also travels to northern Sweden with us and has told us which innovations could decisively shape the future of driving.

In order to develop innovative solutions for mobility in two, five or even ten years, real experts are needed. Many of them often work in very different fields – sometimes all over the world. It’s a good thing that there are coordination talents like Julian Beckmann, who bring together all the threads of interdisciplinary and global development teams. As a Technology & Innovation Manager at thyssenkrupp’s Components division, Julian makes a personal contribution to making today’s technology trends fit for tomorrow’s roads.

Technology and Innovation Manager Julian Beckmann is always up to date when it comes to present and future automotive solutions. In Sweden, he tests thyssenkrupp components on snow and ice.

Technology and Innovation Manager Julian Beckmann is always up to date when it comes to present and future automotive solutions. In Sweden, he tests thyssenkrupp components on snow and ice.

With the trend radar for the automotive future

His colleagues and he have their eyes everywhere for this goal: “In development, we pick up trends in the automotive sector, analyze and evaluate them,” explains the technology manager, who is approaching this process in various ways. “An important aspect is the exchange with our customers. In principle, however, it always remains an interplay of personal interest, visiting trade fairs, commissioning studies and other research methods.”

Steer-by-wire: the key technology for autonomous driving

For Julian, one trend that will shape our roads most in the coming years is autonomous driving. For parts of thyssenkrupp's components business, the technology will herald a whole new era - especially for colleagues in the steering department.

For the future of driving, thyssenkrupp is constantly testing what is possible – like here on a German test track. Thanks to steer-by-wire and autonomous driving technology, our test driver can take his hands off the steering wheel.

For the future of driving, thyssenkrupp is constantly testing what is possible – like here on a German test track. Thanks to steer-by-wire and autonomous driving technology, our test driver can take his hands off the steering wheel.

For the future of driving, thyssenkrupp is constantly testing what is possible – like here on a German test track. Thanks to steer-by-wire and autonomous driving technology, our test driver can take his hands off the steering wheel.

“To make autonomous driving a reality, development is moving away from conventional, mechanically-connected steering and toward steer-by-wire steering,” says Beckmann. These are steering systems that manage without a continuous mechanical connection between steering wheel and wheels – and are thus one of the most important technical prerequisites for autonomous driving. As in aeroplanes, the steering command is transmitted purely electrically. New concepts and prototypes of autonomous transport systems and shuttles, which are used at airports, for example, are in part only made possible by steer-by-wire.

Autonomous driving: unusual today, normal tomorrow

One of the biggest challenges for driverless driving, however, remains the skepticism of drivers, as a recent study by Deloitte shows. However, Julian’s positive experience has not broken his confidence in the technology: “New technology often gives rise to reservations at the beginning. But when I compare my experiences with our test vehicles and the driving behavior of many drivers on the motorway, I look forward to autonomous driving.”

He is convinced that autonomous vehicles will prevail in the long term, albeit initially on predefined lanes or routes. “Many of today’s established assistance systems appear unfamiliar the first time they are used. My perception, however, is that frequent drivers in particular no longer want to do without such solutions. Through autonomous traffic control, the road space could be used much more efficiently than today through coordinated acceleration and braking processes and the parking situation could also be improved in many places.”

Everything bagged? Of course, Julian Beckmann is part of the road trip to Arvidsjaur in Sweden, too.

Everything bagged? Of course, Julian Beckmann is part of the road trip to Arvidsjaur in Sweden, too.

And even if it is still a few years before completely autonomous cars make their breakthrough, Steer-by-Wire already offers end customers clear advantages. “Purely electric steering systems enable the driver to individually adapt the steering feel to his own needs,” says Julian. “Completely new steering concepts are also conceivable, for example, by replacing the traditional steering wheel with a joystick or tablet. We have already implemented such approaches in our test vehicles today.”

Digital support for all road conditions

According to Julian, what applies to steering a vehicle with steer-by-wire can also be applied to other driving functions. “Currently, the driver’s input to the accelerator or brake pedal is passed on to so-called actuators. In the future, this will be handled and optimized by a central control unit. Such systems receive the environmental information that we perceive today with our eyes and process in the brain through sensors,” explained Julian.

Shaping the future of driving together

Julian finds the engineering spirit of his colleagues invaluable in all his projects. “I feel the ambition and courage of our engineers and developers to look to the future. They have exactly the skills to develop suitable solutions for our customers’ present and future needs.”

One thing above all else helps in development: team spirit. “The automotive sector is in the midst of the greatest upheaval in decades. Trends such as autonomous driving and e-mobility are driving the entire industry. Added to this are the pleasant working atmosphere and development opportunities at thyssenkrupp. Everyone pulls together and knows: We have a great opportunity to play an active role in shaping the automotive future. This idea motivates each and every one of us. Every day.”

This is what driving pleasure looks like: Julian Beckmann during the 2,200 kilometer drive towards northern Sweden.

This is what driving pleasure looks like: Julian Beckmann during the 2,200 kilometer drive towards northern Sweden.

Road trip to Sweden: The anticipation of an innovation manager

Julian is also on board on the road trip to Sweden: “The cars and the trip itself are exciting – it’s even nicer that the colleagues are there. I’m also curious to see how the vehicles will behave in the special weather conditions in Sweden”.