Made in Tampere: better user experience for future cars9.2.2021
In the near future, there will be more and more cars equipped with technology that has been developed in Tampere in Finland. The German automotive system integrator BHTC is among the first ones to announce the news: their R&D unit in Tampere developed the central touchscreen for the new Škoda all-electric car.
"Our screen." That is how they refer to it in the BHTC Tampere office – and in an enthusiastic tone because it has been such an important project for them. Officially it is, of course, Škoda ENYAQ iV’s central touchscreen.
BHTC opened their R&D Centre in Tampere in 2017. Since development cycles are relatively long in the automotive industry, the Škoda touchscreen is the first piece of product news Vesa Pelli, Managing Director at BHTC Finland, can openly deliver.
– This is our grand opening. Later more car models with things developed here in Tampere will be announced, and they will be something that’s never been seen before, says Pelli.
The German automotive system integrator BHTC, Behr-Hella Thermocontrol GmbH, is one of the world’s leading companies in climate control, thermal management and HMI for the automotive industry. Its turnover is over 500 million euros. In the recent years, Tampere-based R&D has helped them win three significant contracts, each worth 200–250 million euros.
– Together they will generate a considerable amount of future turnover for BHTC. I think it is fair to say that the Tampere unit has proven itself, says Pelli.
Why Tampere is in the center of automotive technology?
Tampere, Finland is not the most obvious location for an automotive system integrator, because there are no car manufacturers in the region. It was the local technical expertise and automotive-related ecosystem that brought BHTC to Tampere. For example, the region’s software companies that, according to Pelli, understand well the needs of automotive industry and excel in software productization.
– The dynamic ecosystem is one of the main reasons we are in Tampere. Here we are surrounded by highly competent companies, and collaborating with them, Pelli says.
Expertise on mobile and consumer electronics is much appreciated by the automotive industry. This is, of course, a strength in the Tampere Region due to the Nokia and Microsoft Mobile’s operations that were there until recent years. Tampere has a long history of smartphone and also intelligent work machine development (e.g. forest machines, container handlers and mining equipment).
Tampere Automotive Cluster offers top expertise for the various needs of car manufacturers and automotive technology suppliers. For more information, please visit the Cluster website.
After the Nokia restructuring in Tampere, the expertise didn’t leave the region but was successfully transferred to new uses, for example automotive R&D. Former Nokia and Microsoft Mobile employees found new jobs and established their own companies. Global networks created while working in a major corporation are also still there.
– Should I need a supplier for technology, components or expertise, contacts are easy to locate. By opening my LinkedIn, I’m likely to find at least one acquaintance in any interesting company, explains Pelli.
The networks show their strength also in the manner the BHTC Tampere team has grown. There are almost 30 people now, there will be ten more during 2021 and twenty more in the following year. So far all the new recruits have been found through the team’s networks.
There will be no shortage of new team members in the future, either, as the Tampere University Hervanta campus is almost next door.
– Even at the moment there are two students doing their master’s thesis project with us. They bring us the newest knowledge from the academic front, and gain experience-based know-how from us. It’s a win-win, Pelli says.
Tampere mindset: experimenting and innovating
Finland and Germany are the main sites for HMI development in BHTC. In other words, they examine the human-machine interaction. The central touchscreen in a car is a perfect example of that, as it allows the car and its driver to communicate. With the screen, the driver can use controls, navigate, make phone calls, choose music etc.
– We develop display-related technologies in Tampere. With various sensors and improved interaction we aim to develop devices that are easier, quicker and more intuitive to use. We can integrate everything into the display and offer a package suitable for the customer’s needs, says Pelli.
Experimenting is essential in the Tampere unit. In the everyday work within the customer projects, ideas will occur and experimenting with them is both permitted and encouraged. Innovation is a mindset in Tampere.
– There is room for ideas and will to seek new horizons, that’s why we already have some Tampere-originated patented inventions. Our aim is to innovate things that our customers have never seen before but will want in their products, Pelli says.
And that’s how they are creating the user experience of future cars in Tampere.
Watch the video of building the ENYAQ iV model at the main plant of ŠKODA AUTO in Mladá Boleslav in Czech Republic. The touchscreen designed in Tampere is installed in the very beginning of the film.
Author: Päivi Stenroos