Panasonic Automotive Systems Co., Ltd. Panasonic AUTOMOTIVE

 

Panasonic AUTOMOTIVE

Panasonic Automotive Systems Co., Ltd.

A History of Steadily Earning Trust and the Challenge of Developing New Products

Nissan Motor Corporation (hereinafter Nissan) has adopted our drive recorder–linked electronic mirror system for its Serena. This is the first time Nissan has adopted our drive recorder–linked electronic mirror system. Instead of being complacent about the stable adoption of electronic mirrors, we believed that aggressively proposing innovations was the only way to survive. This system—developed from scratch—is one such innovation that aims to realize Panasonic’s first linkage with an official Panasonic drive recorder. Discover the story of the engineers who focused their energies on site to meet the challenge.  
We interviewed those in charge of the development of both the electronic mirror and the drive recorder, which led to the adoption of this product, to learn about their development journey and the difficulties they faced. 

開発担当者

Mr. Ueda and Mr. Awazu, you started the development and design of electronic mirrors fully in about 2018, right? Please tell us about those days in retrospect.

Mr. Awazu: Originally, Panasonic started with Gen1 for Nissan, the world’s first electronic mirror at that time, and I was only in charge of developing the LCD module that was part of Gen1. However, I still remember the challenges of being in charge of the entire product from this new model.

Mr. Ueda: This Serena is the seventh model to adopt this technology, but I was not involved from the beginning. Earlier, I was involved in the development of electronic side mirrors, and it was impressive how we had to quickly respond to changing customers and the environment.

Mr. Awazu: That’s right. Although mirrors are an important component, they often start in the final stages of vehicle development, and the development and tends to become short. It was very difficult to proceed with the installation review for many vehicle models at the same time in a short development period of only about one year.

左:Left: Mr. Ueda, in charge of electric circuit design; Right: Mr. Awazu, in charge of mechanical design
Left: Mr. Ueda, in charge of electric circuit design; Right: Mr. Awazu, in charge of mechanical design

Did you encounter any difficulties in meeting the strict standards of in-vehicle quality?

Mr. Awazu: Mirrors must meet not only customer requirements but also regulation requirements. For example, the mirror is located between the front seats of the vehicle, where high vibration tolerance is required. If the mirror shakes while driving, the actual reflected image will be blurred and it will be difficult to see. An electronic mirror is heavier because of the LCD portion, and to prevent this shaking, the resonance point where the product oscillates the most was raised to improve vibration tolerance. On the other hand, the mirror had to fall off in a test where a human head was assumed to collide with it, as required by law, so it was very difficult to achieve both a high vibration tolerance and comply with the legal requirements.

Mr. Ueda: Additionally, in terms of regulations, the UN-R158 (standard for devices for means of rear visibility or detection) was added to the specifications for electronic mirrors, starting with the Serena. In conventional systems, the rear camera image for backing up the vehicle would be displayed on two screens in addition to the rearward image in place of the mirror only when the electronic mirror was in display mode. However, now it is necessary to display the rear camera image even in mirror mode. So, together with Nissan, we reviewed the system from the early stages of determining specifications on important aspects such as the interpretation of regulations and determination of marketability.

Mr. Awazu: I believe that, by thoroughly reviewing these issues from the development and design stages and reflecting them in our products, our electronic mirrors have been able to accumulate a stable track record without developing major quality problems.

How do you plan to develop your products in the future?

Mr. Awazu: We have been providing our products outside of Nissan, so we would like Panasonic to be known for electronic mirrors for cars, or at least play some part in that.

Mr. Ueda: I would like to see further global expansion and a higher percentage of lower-grade vehicles equipped with the system so that everybody can experience it.

Mr. Awazu: I think that, in the future, the ability to project high-definition images as a full HD LCD will be required. Also, I hope that Panasonic will be able to offer its unique features as an innovative system, including linkage with other devices, by leveraging the mirror’s installation position.

Mr. Ueda: For example, we would like to detect vehicles approaching from behind to deter drivers from engaging in reckless driving and other risky behaviors. We believe that we can still improve the ability to display high-definition images even under difficult environmental conditions such as rainy and foggy weather.

The adoption of electronic mirrors has steadily increased. However, we were not satisfied with this achievement alone. We also started the development of an official Panasonic drive recorder that works in conjunction with electronic mirrors. The car industry is undergoing a once-in-a-century transformation. With a sense of crisis that orders could disappear at any time, the company decided to promote the product as an innovative system rather than an isolated product. As a result, the system has been adopted as an official product.

Development of the drive recorder system began in February 2020. I would like to ask all three of you—the core members of this development project—to look back on and tell us about those early days.

Mr. Nagano: Mr. Okubo and I became involved in this project after originally working on the design and development of electronic mirrors. Mr. Okubo was in charge of the mechanical design of the drive recorder, and I was in charge of the electrical circuit design. The project started in response to demand from car manufacturers as a countermeasure against the social problem of reckless driving.

Mr. Kume: I was mainly responsible for the system design of electronic mirrors and drive recorders, and for organizing and specifying the interfaces for each product.

Mr. Nagano: From the project’s kick-off, Mr. Kume and the system designers, hardware designers, and software designers collaborated to define what a drive recorder is and to discuss what kind of basic functions it should have, correct?

Mr. Kume: That’s right. Because the drive recorder is a new product, we started by defining what the essential functions of the product were in order to meet in-vehicle quality requirements, and under that premise, we analyzed each of the potential failure cases. In addition to system design, we also collaborated with the mechanical and electrical circuit design, software design, and quality control departments to identify failure cases, including short circuits in the power supply, the product dropping or falling off, and failing to record. We also collaborated on designing safety measures from a system-wide perspective to ensure safety if a failure occurs.

Mr. Nagano: We really started from scratch with the drive recorder. It is a product for recording, so we focused mainly on identifying cases when recording failed.

What difficulties or episodes did you encounter during the development stage?

Mr. Kume, in charge of system design
Mr. Kume, in charge of system design

Mr. Kume: We struggled with the part where we had to ensure the consistency of operations between systems. For just conventional electronic mirrors, we only had to consider displaying the camera image in accordance with the electronic mirror’s control specifications. However, when a drive recorder is involved, we needed to align the operations between the systems—such as starting control of the electronic mirror after the drive recorder is ready to transfer the camera image to the electronic mirror—with as little delay as possible. In addition to failure of the drive recorder system itself, we also needed to consider what to do in the event of failure of other systems.  
Another difficult point was that the newly developed drive recorder alone has multiple conditions for operation and recording. For example, in addition to the normal constant recording mode, there is an emergency recording mode that operates when shaking is detected in the event of vehicle theft, an accident, or other situations while the car engine is stopped and people move away from the car. Verifying each mode was difficult.

Mr. Nagano: The system design period was very difficult. (Laughs) I was impressed by how well it was put together by such a small number of people. When Mr. Kume designed the hardware control specifications, we asked him not only to make the hardware work but also to consider the different safety designs.

Mr. Kume: When a product is an official product of a car manufacturer, the customer specifies strict requirements. A drive recorder must operate reliably even in harsh environments and emit minimum electromagnetic waves so that it does not disturb other devices. It is not as simple as saying it is OK as long as it can record. This is one of the difficult aspects of in-vehicle quality, and Mr. Okubo reviewed materials and configurations from a mechanical design perspective to ensure that noise tolerance is strong and that no noise is generated. Mr. Nagano made very detailed adjustments from the electric circuit design perspective and devised the configuration and usage of electric circuits so that noise is not generated.

Mr. Nagano: That’s right. The electrical circuit design was like solving a complex puzzle. To realize the required functions, to select inexpensive components that would ensure profit, and to keep the product within a specified size while ensuring noise and thermal performance. (Laughs) To meet these goals, I had a lot of back-and-forth with Mr. Okubo, and we repeatedly made prototypes to determine how to design a housing to suppress noise, how to efficiently cool a small housing, and what shape would be best for the housing.

Mr. Okubo: Because requests for systems and software typically increase afterward, the conditions for clearing heat and noise problems are often stricter than the original basic specifications. It was difficult to respond flexibly to these requirements because they had to be cleared under limited conditions and in a short time.

Mr. Nagano: In most cases, the vehicle launch schedule is set from the beginning, so when the preliminary steps are delayed, the delay tends to be passed on to the mechanical design, which caused Mr. Okubo a lot of trouble. When I first took charge of the project, I was not aware of the difficulty of starting from scratch. If I knew it, I don’t know if I would have made the same decisions... I would have to think very hard about that. (Laughs)

Mr. Okubo: I am not sure if the number of people involved in this project was appropriate, because it was also a new product development. But even so, in a way, I think we can be confident that we were able to meet the customer’s schedule even with this small group of elites.

Left: Mr. Nagano, in charge of electric circuit design; Right: Mr. Okubo, in charge of mechanical design
Left: Mr. Nagano, in charge of electric circuit design; Right: Mr. Okubo, in charge of mechanical design

How did you feel when the product was completed? And can you tell us about any future product development plans?

Mr. Okubo: The timing for the cars being deployed in the market is much later, and the next new development projects have already started, so, to be honest, there is no time for reflection. (Laughs)

Mr. Nagano: For this official Panasonic drive recorder development project, we received various awards from both inside and outside the company. Despite the many hardships along the way, I am deeply moved by the fact that we were able to receive the award for advanced development of our product, and I feel that the hard work we put in during product development has paid off. It has been about five years since I joined the company as a mid-career employee, but this was the first time I had received this type of recognition, so I was honestly very happy.

Mr. Kume: The fact that I was able to design a system not only for a single product but for multiple products gave me a lot of confidence. I believe that, from now on, various products in the cabin will be connected by a network and work together. As a system architect, I would like to realize in-vehicle products that can enhance the value of individual products by linking various devices together. In addition, I would like to promote the adoption of vehicle models for overseas markets.

Mr. Okubo: I would like to further enhance my skills and experience. We can hold study sessions to deter possible problems that may occur in mechanical design by collaborating with related departments on the know-how gained during this project, so we can develop and design more efficiently.

Mr. Nagano: The basic function of a drive recorder is to record, so we would like to develop products that are easy to use without breaking while also properly recording. We aim to expand the use of these products to more vehicles.

For the press release, click here.

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