TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The automotive electronics field will move at lightning speed as the auto industry undergoes big transformations, says a strategist from auto supplier Dana.

“There will be as many as 10 design revisions in the electrical and electronics area, where consumer expectations and the rate of development are both rapidly increasing,” says Jacqui Dedo, Dana’s chief strategy and procurement officer.

Electronics have become a centerpiece of automotive technology, and that won’t change, she tells attendees of the Management Briefing Seminars here.

“Every part of the vehicle has been impacted by electronics in the past 30 years, and today it accounts for more than 40% of a vehicle’s cost, up from 20% just 10 years ago,” Dedo says.

More is to come quickly. “Electronics will continue to become more pervasive throughout the vehicle, with sensors, controllers and new innovations being used to improve existing systems.”

The field’s focus will include adding functionality and finding “more ways to use the existing electrical infrastructure as it works to bring in the autonomous car,” she says.

When that vehicle makes its world debut is open to debate. Theoretically, Dedo says, “the ultimate consumer-based value goal is to achieve an entire marketplace of autonomous fuel-cell-based vehicles.”

But she warns such a lofty goal likely would result in unacceptable shareholder returns. “At the same time, focusing solely on short-term quarterly success from current needs and technology also will not prepare us for long-term success.”

As electronics research and development picks up the pace, other automotive areas won’t stand still. “Transformations will take place in the major categories of vehicle components and systems,” including powertrains, interiors and chassis platforms.

For interiors, the rate of change will be relatively slow in the near future, but when the transformation comes, “it will be massive,” Dedo predicts.

“The revolutionary change for interiors will come with the success of the autonomous vehicle, when cars will be transformed into rolling offices, living rooms or whatever the consumer can dream up,” she says.

The autonomous car will make existing configurations for seating, controls, steering and entertainment obsolete, Dedo predicts.

“It will be interesting to see if current interiors suppliers find competition from companies like Herman Miller, La-Z-Boy or even Ikea.”

For chassis builders, major changes will center on new materials and the use of composites and carbon fibers, she says. “Ultimately, the industry will get to the lightweight ‘skateboard’ chassis, with nearly every model of an auto maker’s fleet built on a uniform chassis.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com