Shaping the future

IMG_2777 copy

Q & A

Jacques Esculier,

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Wabco Inc.

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What role do you see Wabco playing in shaping the future Indian CVs?

A. It is the turn of connectivity after electronics, which helps to improve safety and efficiency. It is about connecting the truck to the ground, and beyond braking, Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), and electronically controlled air suspension. It is about information that optimises the way one liaisons with the truck, and helps the driver to be more careful and efficient. Wabco is globally present in this area, and wants India to benefit from this technology. We have already taken a lead position in providing ABS. It is electronically driven, and one of the first electronic systems to find its way to Indian trucks. It is the first basic feature on the path to safer commercial vehicles. We are rolling out AMT, which makes driving comfortable. It also elevates efficiency, and can save almost five per cent fuel. We are introducing technologies and capabilities around advanced driver assistance systems like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). Wabco introduced AEB to the world of CVs, and has been already mandated in Europe. The lane departure warning systems Wabco offers, assist the driver to avert accidents caused by drowsiness. In US, this feature is incredibly popular. It may not be mandated, but has been instrumental in avoiding 85 per cent of the collisions. In India, we are piloting this technology. We are taking an active part in providing the functionalities and hardware for telematics and fleet management. It will be a major step towards optimising logistics. The air disc brakes we have designed may not be electronically driven, they are however essential for safety. Not only are they lighter and simpler than the competition, they save 25 kg per wheel weight. They also enable 10 per cent gain in braking distance. The money that would have been spent on maintenance is saved since there is no need to change the pads. Air disc brakes can go up to 100,000 kms, and this has been demonstrated in India. It takes one fourth of the time to change the pads when compared to drum brake liners. We will soon localise air disc brakes in India. Technologies like these may have been rooted into designs and initiatives taken in Europe, they are being systematically reviewed for cost optimisation. We are leveraging the engineering and supply chain we have established in India. We are conscious about the need for such technologies, and there exists a price constraint.

Q. How is the demand for air disc brakes, AMT and ABS in India?

A. OEMs in India are interested in new technologies. There is awareness for the need to contribute to make roads safer, especially with the country developing so fast. There will be more commercial vehicles on the road. Their rising number will call for systems to make them safer. I think there is pressure from global manufacturers entering emerging markets. They are bringing technologies from Europe. Regional manufacturers are closing that gap and leap frogging to demonstrate that they are also capable of introducing new technologies. Truck manufacturers in India share the ambition to export vehicles to regions with higher standards of safety and efficiency. To compete with fully equipped European trucks, one has to be on par in terms of technology. Such reasons, I think, converge towards a strong interest for OEMs to develop and adapt those systems to their platforms.

Q. What is the level of localisation in AMT and ABS?

A. ABS has been completely localised, including the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that has been historically manufactured in Europe and exported. With a strong focus to minimise costs in India, we decided to break the rule and manufacture ECUs in India. We have already achieved zero quality defects. Riding on this success, we will make ECUs for more systems in the future. For AMTs we have built an assembly line in our factory at Chennai. We are also progressively localising since we have a network of suppliers. Doing this will contribute to lower pricing for OEMs and fleet owners.

Q. How do you look at your vendor base in India?

A. About 30 per cent of what we manufacture in India is exported. All compressors for Volvo trucks worldwide are built at Chennai. All suspensions for BMW cars are built at Chennai. The suppliers in India are world-class in terms of cost, quality and delivery. It is amazing to see the commitment they have, and the way they adopt management approaches like lean management and six sigma. Our suppliers in India not only support Wabco in India, they also support our factories in Europe and US.

Q. What constraints do you face when it comes to driver assistance systems in India?

A. Driving in an Indian city is quite different from that in an European city. Highway driving is different. The environment there is fairly similar to other parts of the world. We are right now piloting those systems, gathering data, and understanding what exactly the drivers of trucks and buses are exposed to, and how we have to adapt those systems. This would ensure that we do not offer features that are not adaptable. We want to develop functions that specifically address the Indian environment. We are working with OE partners to process this information, and optimise the interface.

Q. India is a regulatory driven market. Does it pose a limitation for autonomous and connected technologies?

A. Most governments of major countries like India are going through the same path. It can be discussed and debated whether ABS, stability control are good or not. Someone has to put the stick in the sand and drive the market. It has been proven time and again that the steps governments take are instrumental in enhancing safety on the road. The Indian government is optimistic about cutting the number of road fatalities by half in the next five years. This would call for the need to impose certain improvements in the way vehicles are designed. They have to meet the set targets. Europe has already mandated AEB and lane departure warning. There are important milestones on the horizon. I think, stability control will become mandatory in US by mid 2017. It will soon be mandatory in Japan as well. It became mandatory in Europe a few years ago. For India to follow suit is absolutely normal. The move up to BSIV emission standards reflects upon us human beings addressing the problem of pollution. It is about pushing the industry towards cleaner engines and vehicles. There was quite a lot of push when EuroVI norms were implemented (in Europe). Lot of technical challenges had to be overcome to meet the incredibly stringent requirements. As a citizen, I am happy that our governments have been enforcing things. The talk about BSVI is normal and healthy.

Q. Isn’t the time frame to BSVI too short?

A. I would say that the technology is available. It was invented by the European manufacturers. All the technologies that are needed to move to BSVI are already there. About the 2020 timeline, it is hard for me to comment. It is a decision that India has to make given the constraints. The sooner the automobile industry offers cleaner air to the society the better it is for all.

Q. Bus Code implementation was delayed. Some regulations seem to lag. How does that affect you?

A. For us, the first experience was the ABS mandate. The government stood by its word and it happened on date. For us, the uncertainty is about managing the supply chain depending upon implementation. We factor those things in our planning.

Q. There is an urgency in implementing the truck code. Crash norms are also being talked about. What do you think of their implementation?

A. Whenever we set off, we always factor such things in the planning. There are a lot of stakeholders, and it takes time to reflect upon the impact of the measure you take. The Indian Government looks decisive. The world seems to be impressed with whatever is going on in India.

Q. How has been the response for AMTs in buses?

A. AMT technology took off in US only three years ago – when the price of oil was USD 100 per barrel. Each market has its own way of maturing. Like any other location, technologies will be adopted in India too. The trend of technology adoption is accelerating in India. It is aimed at elevating safety and efficiency. Except collision mitigation system, safety is often regulatory driven. In US, fleets are absolutely convinced that collision mitigation lowers accidents. In the case of efficiency, it is easier. From the total customer satisfaction point of view, AMT will pay back in a matter of months. The technology is mature. AMTs supplied to Ashok Leyland Janbus were as per the JNNURM program. We also supplied AMTs to many fleets in India through that program. It was specified under the JNNURM scheme. Against automatic transmission in terms of fuel saving, AMT is better. The central government has structured Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). It has asked the state governments to decide upon the bus specifications. The only problem is, the industry is fragmented in terms of fleets, which is not the case in the western world. There are large fleets there. The fragmentation makes it a bit difficult to reach out and convince. Smaller fleets makes it complicated. We have a strong presence with almost 7000 outlets to distribute our spare parts; 250 approved service centres, and precious anchor points which are in touch with trucks drivers and fleets on a daily basis. Wabco is taking steps to communicate values that technologies like AMT could bring.

Q. How do you plan to increase your reach in the Indian market?

A. With advanced technologies finding their way into India, it is becoming difficult for road-side mechanics to attend to vehicles. Training is essential. We are providing them (mechanics) with the right diagnostics tools and equipment. We have placed service engineers in the field to support our network. Roughly at every 100kms, we have a touch point. We are also looking at expanding both, the service engineers and the touch points. There is a need for the service centers to elevate themselves to be able to handle advanced products. There is more and more electronics involved. Globally, there is a Wabco university to support people involved in fleets. In India also we have a similar arrangement, but not as big as a university.

Q. India is known for its IT prowess. Are you investing in software development in India?

A. We have almost three times more software engineers in India than in Europe. Their number is fast growing, and their capabilities are formidable. The latest braking system Wabco has developed for Daimler global, 85 per cent of the software it has, was developed in India. This braking system will go on every Daimler truck, and is modular in nature. India develops major pieces of AMT software as well. The Indian operations are also capable of locally adapting systems developed in other advanced markets for the local market. In case of AMT, we made some adjustments to the system to suit the local working environment. India is right now the second pillar of engineering for us. Germany may lead in advanced technologies, the basic software is built in India. India is thus driving the mechanical aspect of our products and systems. No product is released anywhere in the world without Indian engineers either contributing directly to it, or reviewing it to make sure it has been optimised. This is because there are particular skills including the capability to engineer frugally, which leads to a drop in costs by 30 to 40 per cent. We have systematically shifted all the products we have designed earlier to India to avail of the frugal engineering capabilities the engineers here posses. While it is not just one country that benefits from what we develop in Europe, India is a major contributor to the value Wabco provides to truck, bus or trailer manufacturers the world over. We have more Wabco employees in India (close to 4000) than we have in any other country in the world. They amount to almost one third of the total Wabco employee strength.

Q. Do the Indian operations make a centre of excellence?

A. India is a centre of excellence for vacuum pumps, air suspension, compressors and actuators. We build actuators that are designed in India, in Europe, Japan and US. Compressors made in India support Volvo globally. Around 300,000 ABS systems in India have been localised. There has not been a single reject. Actuators made locally are commanded by ABS electronics. ABS directs compressed air to them.

Q. With systems like ABS and AMT finding their way to India, how far are we from connected vehicles?

A. We are fast moving towards connected vehicles. Wabco has developed a new strategy in that direction. It’s a completely new area of value that our industry would provide to the fleets. We acquired a leader in fleet management solutions in Europe. In India, we have developed a product, that is essential to connect the truck to the ground. It simultaneously gathers information (on fuel consumption, driver behaviour and other functions), processes it and transmits it. Functions like fuel consumption and driver behaviour are incredibly valuable for fleets to optimise their way of functioning.

Q. What is the level of involvement of Wabco when it comes to cloud based technologies?

A. We are gathering information as we are building electronic systems. We know how to interpret enormous amount of information, process it, and send it to the cloud. We are already building all those elements that will ultimately lead to powerful functions. We are working with insurance companies in Europe to gather all the safety events that have happened on a truck. We can have those insurance companies access the level of risk. They can accordingly adjust the premium by judging the level of risk. This can push other fleets to improve their performance; check how many times they trigger safety mechanisms. We have cameras that watch the driver, any time there is a safety event. We send the record of what has happened in the last 30 seconds to a centre in India. This system is very useful in US, as it has driven the number of events down significantly, making everyone safer.

Q. Is telematics a growing business for Wabco? How much does it contribute globally?

A. In India, telematics is picking up well. With BSIV emission norms, the use of electronics will grow. We are engaging with Volvo Eicher as an OE supplier to develop telematics for them. Telematics is a sizeable business for us, and is growing fast. In digitisation, the sky is the limit. The potential of what the big data will bring to fleets in terms of enhancing their efficiency is high. Half the trucks today anywhere in the world are empty. Think about what a Uber type of system can bring to this industry. There are many things in the fleets that can be brought together by the digital world.

“All compressors for Volvo trucks worldwide are built at Chennai.”

Trendline

The trend of technology adoption is accelerating in India. It is aimed at elevating safety and efficiency.

India is a major contributor to the value that Wabco provides to truck, bus or trailer manufacturers the world over.

We help customers make CVs more comfortable and safe.

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Article by: Team CV

Jacques Esculier, Chairman & CEO, Wabco Holdings Inc.

As part of the Prima T1 racing, what do you hope to derive?

I think that this truck racing event is a good way to promote the CV industry. It is a good way to bring before the public the achievements of this industry. It is a major pillar in the economic growth of the country. It is difficult to see a country flourish without an efficient transportation system. Participation in such an event also allows us to highlight breakthrough technologies that help commercial vehicles become more efficient during their operation. We are contributing largely to this by featuring a new ABS system that has been mandated by the government. The date of enforcement being April 1, 2015, for new trucks, and October 2015 for the existing trucks. I think it is a fantastic step forward. India has one per cent of the total commercial vehicles in the world. However eight per cent of the world’s fatalities occur in India. ABS is a major cornerstone to enhance safety. It is exactly the reason why it has been featuring on the trucks today.

Apart from scarcity of drivers, there is a need for skilled drivers who understand new technologies. How do you see India coming to have such drivers?

We want to make technology more accessible. We are helping our customers make CVs that are more comfortable and safe for the drivers. More than 50 per cent of accidents happen due to loss of control of the truck. 28 per cent fatalities out of 50 per cent accidents happen in India. Overall it is a fairly dangerous job, and it is very complicated too as it involves dealing with various complex machines. We are making it safer for the driver as we work with OEMs. Our technologies also make CVs more attractive for drivers. We will be making it more comfortable and easier to drive for the driver by providing AMT (Automated Manual Transmission), an electronic system which you can put on the top of your manual system. It is a breakthrough not only in India but across the world. Apart from saving five per cent fuel, it also saves the driver from regular shifting of gears. Saves the driver from effort and training. This allows him or her to concentrate better on the road. The electronically controlled air suspension that we offer, makes the vehicle more comfortable. It also saves fuel by optimising the way the load on the axles is distributed. For example, there are trucks today, which have double driving axles. We have one driving axle instead of two. When the truck starts we can transfer load on that particular axle by using this air suspension to distribute the load. This is the technology that we are bringing in along with driver assistance technologies. For commercial vehicles, we were the first supplier to bring these systems; the collision mitigation systems, lane departure system or the drowsiness warning system. Early in the morning on freeways, both collision mitigation system and drowsiness warning can be of much help. We sold over 1,00,000 units of our ‘Onguard’ collision mitigation systems. All those who have equipped their trucks with these systems in the US have already validated that they have seen more than 80 per cent avoidance of rear end collision, which is the biggest source of accidents.

Do you see any limitation in using these technologies in India? Issues like roads limiting the axle load carrying capacity?

You cannot compensate for the limitation unless you take out weight from the truck. We are also contributing to make trucks lighter. Though not in India, we have introduced a new material to reduce the weight of the compressor by 50 per cent, which can be up to 30 kg. We have innovated by designing the lightest air disc brakes so far in the world. As this industry will gradually adopt air disc brakes, we will certainly offer that innovation for making the truck lighter. I feel the government here is very committed towards improving the infrastructure, which will surely support the economic growth in the country.

But there is a trend that people want to go for bigger trucks that can have better payload capacity yet be as cost effective as a smaller truck?

If the infrastructure allows, it is better to have bigger, long haul trucks than smaller long haul ones as the former maximise weight and have better payload capacity. Around the hub you really don’t need those large trucks but for hub itself you can’t do without big long haul trucks.

Considering Europe’s well defined hub and spoke model, how do you see the same evolving in India, and how will that help a supplier to grow along with the OEMs?

Infrastructure of the industry itself is yet to mature in terms of having larger fleets. You need to have spokes (the network) in the hub and spoke model. You need to simplify what it takes to move from one region to another and not having to stop for paying taxes. This country will progressively mature and match with the other areas of the world, which have progressed in terms of infrastructure in the logic of optimising the transportation of goods and thereby the usage of commercial vehicles. We are here to provide all the support and technologies that will be required.

In India, you command a good share of the CV braking system market. ABS is also in. AMT however is yet to be addressed. How long will it take?

If you look at Europe, it is ahead of other markets in adapting technologies in commercial vehicles. Close to 80 per cent of the trucks in Europe use AMT. For years, the US market did not adapt to this technology. Around 3-4 years ago, the US market started adapting. It recognised the value of two things, fuel consumption and shortage of drivers. The two were making it very complicated to execute the work they had. By short cutting the training and eliminating the very difficult part of shifting gears, it has unleashed a lot of hope. The payback time of AMT is proving to be six months, which is a very short payback time. We respect the time a market takes to mature, and gain awareness. The first area where AMTs will penetrate well is in city buses. It is a very economical way of enhancing fuel consumption and makes it easier for the drivers. It will progressively gain space over what has been going on in Europe, US and Brazil. Indeed, AMT was invented by Wabco in 1986 for Mercedes-Benz. Another technology is the Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) branded by the name of ‘Optiride’ that we are bringing into India. This is a highly adopted technology in Europe. We have an ECU that optimises pressure in the air bellows that are a part of the truck’s air suspension. The suspension is also load sensitive, and speed sensitive. As the truck gains speed, it can be lowered to ensure better aerodynamic efficiency, and save fuel. It also offers kneeling for buses to make them user friendly for disabled people.

You mentioned that AMT will be seen in buses first. What about automatics being claimed to be the best solutions for buses?

When compared to AMT, Automatic Transmissions (AT) are extremely heavy. We are replacing them in city buses. AMTs allow flexibility in the production of CVs because they just sit on the top of a manual transmission. So a manufacturer can decide whether his transmission will be manual or AMT. Economical in terms of acquisition, the cost of an AMT is incredibly low. It also consumes less fuel than automatics. One of our customers has saved 10 per cent fuel by using AMT in the city buses. AMT is largely dominating in Europe, which I think is the most advanced industry for commercial vehicles. I also think of it as a good point of reference. Wabco already works with customers like Volvo, Daimler and ZF transmission. We are also working with Fast Gear in China, which is the largest transmission manufacturer in the world, and with China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Co. Ltd. (CNHTC) which has its own transmission business.

Your AMT is already in the Indian market?

Our AMT is found on the Ashok Leyland Janbus, which is already plying in Kolkata.

Collision mitigation system will enhance the safety of CVs. For a cost sensitive market like India, what is your application road-map for such technologies?

Even though what we bring to China and India is an adaptation of what (technology) we have developed for US or European market, we respect the specific application of the market and we just can’t take the product off-the-shelf and sell it in various markets. We have been working hard to find a cost level and specifications that would be acceptable to India for collision mitigation system. It is not certainly desirable in the city traffic because here in India, you are always prone to a collision due to heavy traffic. So you may need a different kind of functionality depending upon the speed itself. This is the work that we are doing right now to provide the best optimised system that will benefit the Indian market.

How involved are the India operations in the development of such systems?

The ‘Optidrive’ system is modular in nature, and was developed specifically for the emerging markets. When you look at what we develop for Volvo and Daimler, it needs five years of development, and is extremely expensive and tailor made. They can amortise it as they produce huge amounts of gearboxes and they equip all of them with AMTs. So, the volume is high. You may not have such an application in a country like India where the volumes are a lot lower. The development costs are heavier and can’t be managed specifically for each gearbox by optimising and tailoring the design. So we came up with this idea of a modular system that shortened the adaption system and was less expensive. In-turn, it became accessible for Ashok Leyland and CNHTC in China. This design was built by Indians, Chinese and Germans. The software was developed in India and we have more than half of our total software developments being carried out at Chennai. The product development concept of Wabco is around two major pillars. One is in Germany. Historically Europeans have been offered new technologies that did not contain the concept of optimising the design. You want to be the number one in emerging markets, and it is India that is optimising technology. There’s not one new product that we develop in Germany, which is not reviewed by the Indians. The products we had designed long time ago are redesigned for India. More than 30 per cent of Wabco employees are in India, which is also the largest employer of Wabco work force. So, India is the centre piece of the entire strategy.

The transport minister has been pushing for alternate propulsion mediums. Scania has an ethanol bus running in India. There’s the BYD electric bus in Bangalore. Do you see scope for such technologies to reach a practical level?

We are accompanying this trend, and provide two things. One is an electric air compressor. If you stop the compression engine in a hybrid system, it will still compress the air. So we have an electrically powered compressor. The second fundamental thing is you have to manage your energy extremely efficiently. You have to figure out how you are going to absorb that energy without challenging the safety of the vehicle. We have invented EBS system in CVs and we have been developing the EBS system for manufacturers who are developing those hybrid systems or electrical systems. The hybrid concept is very attractive, and is the focus of most of the countries. However it is still very challenging in terms of pricing returns. It has to be subsidised, and if you don’t do it, it will be very complicated to have a financial equation that allows it to flourish. The problem is with batteries which need replacement. They are extremely expensive. So there is an upfront cost, then maintenance cost and operational cost which is heavy.

We help customers make CVs more comfortable and safe.

Article by: Team CV

Jacques Esculier, Chairman & CEO, Wabco Holdings Inc.

As part of the Prima T1 racing, what do you hope to derive?

I think that this truck racing event is a good way to promote the CV industry. It is a good way to bring before the public the achievements of this industry. It is a major pillar in the economic growth of the country. It is difficult to see a country flourish without an efficient transportation system. Participation in such an event also allows us to highlight breakthrough technologies that help commercial vehicles become more efficient during their operation. We are contributing largely to this by featuring a new ABS system that has been mandated by the government. The date of enforcement being April 1, 2015, for new trucks, and October 2015 for the existing trucks. I think it is a fantastic step forward. India has one per cent of the total commercial vehicles in the world. However eight per cent of the world’s fatalities occur in India. ABS is a major cornerstone to enhance safety. It is exactly the reason why it has been featuring on the trucks today.

Apart from scarcity of drivers, there is a need for skilled drivers who understand new technologies. How do you see India coming to have such drivers?

We want to make technology more accessible. We are helping our customers make CVs that are more comfortable and safe for the drivers. More than 50 per cent of accidents happen due to loss of control of the truck. 28 per cent fatalities out of 50 per cent accidents happen in India. Overall it is a fairly dangerous job, and it is very complicated too as it involves dealing with various complex machines. We are making it safer for the driver as we work with OEMs. Our technologies also make CVs more attractive for drivers. We will be making it more comfortable and easier to drive for the driver by providing AMT (Automated Manual Transmission), an electronic system which you can put on the top of your manual system. It is a breakthrough not only in India but across the world. Apart from saving five per cent fuel, it also saves the driver from regular shifting of gears. Saves the driver from effort and training. This allows him or her to concentrate better on the road. The electronically controlled air suspension that we offer, makes the vehicle more comfortable. It also saves fuel by optimising the way the load on the axles is distributed. For example, there are trucks today, which have double driving axles. We have one driving axle instead of two. When the truck starts we can transfer load on that particular axle by using this air suspension to distribute the load. This is the technology that we are bringing in along with driver assistance technologies. For commercial vehicles, we were the first supplier to bring these systems; the collision mitigation systems, lane departure system or the drowsiness warning system. Early in the morning on freeways, both collision mitigation system and drowsiness warning can be of much help. We sold over 1,00,000 units of our ‘Onguard’ collision mitigation systems. All those who have equipped their trucks with these systems in the US have already validated that they have seen more than 80 per cent avoidance of rear end collision, which is the biggest source of accidents.

Do you see any limitation in using these technologies in India? Issues like roads limiting the axle load carrying capacity?

You cannot compensate for the limitation unless you take out weight from the truck. We are also contributing to make trucks lighter. Though not in India, we have introduced a new material to reduce the weight of the compressor by 50 per cent, which can be up to 30 kg. We have innovated by designing the lightest air disc brakes so far in the world. As this industry will gradually adopt air disc brakes, we will certainly offer that innovation for making the truck lighter. I feel the government here is very committed towards improving the infrastructure, which will surely support the economic growth in the country.

But there is a trend that people want to go for bigger trucks that can have better payload capacity yet be as cost effective as a smaller truck?

If the infrastructure allows, it is better to have bigger, long haul trucks than smaller long haul ones as the former maximise weight and have better payload capacity. Around the hub you really don’t need those large trucks but for hub itself you can’t do without big long haul trucks.

Considering Europe’s well defined hub and spoke model, how do you see the same evolving in India, and how will that help a supplier to grow along with the OEMs?

Infrastructure of the industry itself is yet to mature in terms of having larger fleets. You need to have spokes (the network) in the hub and spoke model. You need to simplify what it takes to move from one region to another and not having to stop for paying taxes. This country will progressively mature and match with the other areas of the world, which have progressed in terms of infrastructure in the logic of optimising the transportation of goods and thereby the usage of commercial vehicles. We are here to provide all the support and technologies that will be required.

In India, you command a good share of the CV braking system market. ABS is also in. AMT however is yet to be addressed. How long will it take?

If you look at Europe, it is ahead of other markets in adapting technologies in commercial vehicles. Close to 80 per cent of the trucks in Europe use AMT. For years, the US market did not adapt to this technology. Around 3-4 years ago, the US market started adapting. It recognised the value of two things, fuel consumption and shortage of drivers. The two were making it very complicated to execute the work they had. By short cutting the training and eliminating the very difficult part of shifting gears, it has unleashed a lot of hope. The payback time of AMT is proving to be six months, which is a very short payback time. We respect the time a market takes to mature, and gain awareness. The first area where AMTs will penetrate well is in city buses. It is a very economical way of enhancing fuel consumption and makes it easier for the drivers. It will progressively gain space over what has been going on in Europe, US and Brazil. Indeed, AMT was invented by Wabco in 1986 for Mercedes-Benz. Another technology is the Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) branded by the name of ‘Optiride’ that we are bringing into India. This is a highly adopted technology in Europe. We have an ECU that optimises pressure in the air bellows that are a part of the truck’s air suspension. The suspension is also load sensitive, and speed sensitive. As the truck gains speed, it can be lowered to ensure better aerodynamic efficiency, and save fuel. It also offers kneeling for buses to make them user friendly for disabled people.

You mentioned that AMT will be seen in buses first. What about automatics being claimed to be the best solutions for buses?

When compared to AMT, Automatic Transmissions (AT) are extremely heavy. We are replacing them in city buses. AMTs allow flexibility in the production of CVs because they just sit on the top of a manual transmission. So a manufacturer can decide whether his transmission will be manual or AMT. Economical in terms of acquisition, the cost of an AMT is incredibly low. It also consumes less fuel than automatics. One of our customers has saved 10 per cent fuel by using AMT in the city buses. AMT is largely dominating in Europe, which I think is the most advanced industry for commercial vehicles. I also think of it as a good point of reference. Wabco already works with customers like Volvo, Daimler and ZF transmission. We are also working with Fast Gear in China, which is the largest transmission manufacturer in the world, and with China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Co. Ltd. (CNHTC) which has its own transmission business.

Your AMT is already in the Indian market?

Our AMT is found on the Ashok Leyland Janbus, which is already plying in Kolkata.

Collision mitigation system will enhance the safety of CVs. For a cost sensitive market like India, what is your application road-map for such technologies?

Even though what we bring to China and India is an adaptation of what (technology) we have developed for US or European market, we respect the specific application of the market and we just can’t take the product off-the-shelf and sell it in various markets. We have been working hard to find a cost level and specifications that would be acceptable to India for collision mitigation system. It is not certainly desirable in the city traffic because here in India, you are always prone to a collision due to heavy traffic. So you may need a different kind of functionality depending upon the speed itself. This is the work that we are doing right now to provide the best optimised system that will benefit the Indian market.

How involved are the India operations in the development of such systems?

The ‘Optidrive’ system is modular in nature, and was developed specifically for the emerging markets. When you look at what we develop for Volvo and Daimler, it needs five years of development, and is extremely expensive and tailor made. They can amortise it as they produce huge amounts of gearboxes and they equip all of them with AMTs. So, the volume is high. You may not have such an application in a country like India where the volumes are a lot lower. The development costs are heavier and can’t be managed specifically for each gearbox by optimising and tailoring the design. So we came up with this idea of a modular system that shortened the adaption system and was less expensive. In-turn, it became accessible for Ashok Leyland and CNHTC in China. This design was built by Indians, Chinese and Germans. The software was developed in India and we have more than half of our total software developments being carried out at Chennai. The product development concept of Wabco is around two major pillars. One is in Germany. Historically Europeans have been offered new technologies that did not contain the concept of optimising the design. You want to be the number one in emerging markets, and it is India that is optimising technology. There’s not one new product that we develop in Germany, which is not reviewed by the Indians. The products we had designed long time ago are redesigned for India. More than 30 per cent of Wabco employees are in India, which is also the largest employer of Wabco work force. So, India is the centre piece of the entire strategy.

The transport minister has been pushing for alternate propulsion mediums. Scania has an ethanol bus running in India. There’s the BYD electric bus in Bangalore. Do you see scope for such technologies to reach a practical level?

We are accompanying this trend, and provide two things. One is an electric air compressor. If you stop the compression engine in a hybrid system, it will still compress the air. So we have an electrically powered compressor. The second fundamental thing is you have to manage your energy extremely efficiently. You have to figure out how you are going to absorb that energy without challenging the safety of the vehicle. We have invented EBS system in CVs and we have been developing the EBS system for manufacturers who are developing those hybrid systems or electrical systems. The hybrid concept is very attractive, and is the focus of most of the countries. However it is still very challenging in terms of pricing returns. It has to be subsidised, and if you don’t do it, it will be very complicated to have a financial equation that allows it to flourish. The problem is with batteries which need replacement. They are extremely expensive. So there is an upfront cost, then maintenance cost and operational cost which is heavy.