Two of Bosch Group’s global leaders speak with WardsAuto.com about innovation and technology issues.

Board of Management members Werner Struth, who oversees North and South America operations in Farmington Hills, MI, and Uwe Raschke, who heads the Consumer Goods sector in Stuttgart, Germany, discuss major challenges including driverless vehicles, safety and the Internet of Things, which refers to connected devices operated through consumer hubs such as smartphone and tablet apps.

Bosch, a leading automotive supplier with about 281,000 global employees, integrates its “Invented for Life” theme into its culture and products.

WardsAuto: What do you see as Bosch’s bigger technology achievements in the last few years?

Struth: Bosch now provides the three S’s in connectivity: sensors, software and services. And we’re the world’s leading supplier of micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) sensors and have been at the forefront of this technology since it emerged. Connectivity and sensors are the cornerstones of the Internet of Things.

I’d also like to emphasize that we’re very strong in the electronic and connectivity world. In our plant in Reutlingen, Germany, we manufacture semiconductors and micromechanical components for the automotive and consumer goods industries.

WardsAuto: What are some practical examples of Bosch tech applications in everyday life?

Struth: Our MEMS sensors are indispensable in cars and smartphones. These tiny sensors are becoming ever smarter, more compact and energy-efficient. Today, Bosch sensors are used globally in at least 50% of smartphones. Our sustainable solutions for a connected world include Smart Home and energy devices, 3-D printers (introduced in November) and mobility systems such as e-scooters and e-bikes.

In 2014 there were 4 billion Bosch sensors built. Overall, Bosch researchers filed nearly 5,000 patents in 2013; this remained at a similar level in 2014. Some 20 patents are filed each working day.

WardsAuto: Do you think there’s too much smart technology in vehicles and products today? Are consumers confused by more advanced technology?

Raschke: We can never get too smart with so-called smart technology or consumer goods. This year, Bosch expects that 75% of the world population will have Internet access and about 6 billion items will be Internet-connected. Whenever we look at products for the connected world, electronic and power (features) are decisive (factors in purchase decisions).

The Internet presents many opportunities and risks. Five years ago I never thought we wouldn’t be buying CDs anymore. We don’t always understand what to do at the time, but products have to be connected – and easy to use.

WardsAuto: What is your view on advanced driverless vehicles?  How important are they to safety?

Struth: At Bosch, we believe that automated driving will help us achieve our vision of safe and accident-free driving. About 90% of vehicle accidents (injuries and fatalities) today are due to human error. Supporting advanced automated vehicles could reduce this rate significantly. It could be one of the strongest lifesavers in our cars. Everyone – customers to makers – wants to emphasize safety in cars.

Driving a car is fun on country roads, in the Black Forest or the Alps. But most people drive in city conditions and traffic jams. With driver-assist technology, the driver can (relax more).

WardsAuto: Are we moving fast enough in developing automated (driverless) vehicles?

Struth: We’re at the partial automated stage now. Step-by-step, we will eliminate the obstacles. In fully automated vehicles, without human interface, the system will detect the surroundings and (provide) the right level of precision for driving conditions.

WardsAuto: How far away are we from these fully automated vehicles?

Struth: Fully automated driving is on the horizon and can be expected in the decade after 2020. But Bosch already offers an increasing number of driver-assistance functions which represent important first steps.

WardsAuto: What about your tech partners/supplier companies? Are they on board with new tech trends?

Raschke: The distribution landscape changes all the time; our trade partners of tomorrow would be happy to have the products we see (today). Consumers will decide if it’s a good solution or not; these developments are driven by technology, not consumers. But we have integrated the consumer heavily into the equation.

WardsAuto: What’s the importance of consumer shows like CES and auto shows to your marketplace?

Raschke: Companies watch the headlines (at shows). They look at new trends and ideas, new and old players, who’s leading in a space. It’s important to show our competence. We’re happy to show products like our new 3-D printer, Smart Home, self-parking cars, gesture-controlled info systems, head-up displays, etc.

WardsAuto: Mr. Struth, what is your view on digital disruption?

Struth: It’s a matter of disrupt or be disrupted. The change we see today will become even faster and shorter-cycled. The really exciting thing is that today’s business models are enabled by the Internet of Things. We have the power and inherent creativity to adjust a little bit ahead of the change and be part of the change. If you don't innovate, you will have a hard time (surviving).

WardsAuto: What's important to you in these changing times?

Raschke: What’s important to me is the feeling of the times we are in – it’s all so connected. We live in the most exciting phase of the last 200 years since industrialization began. Entrepreneurial behavior is changing. Contrasted to buying companies 10 years ago, opportunities and risks are still there, but there are huge possibilities for those who (want to be) successful.

We (at Bosch) are strong believers in a changing world and the (role of) strategic industries and companies like ours. Today, this means that products have to be even more integrated and connected.