Schaeffler Acquiring Electronic Steering Developer Paravan

German automotive supplier Schaeffler is acquiring Paravan, a developer of drive-by-wire technology called Space Drive, the two companies announced Monday.

The technology was developed by Paravan to help drivers with physical disabilities by replacing cumbersome mechanical vehicle control systems with fully electronic systems.

Drive-by-wire, also referred to as steer-by-wire, uses electrical or electro-mechanical systems for performing vehicle functions traditionally achieved by mechanical linkages.

It is considered a key enabling technology for self-driving cars, eliminating the need for a steering wheel and steering column. At the same time, it opens up new possibilities for the interior designs of vehicles and cabs.

The deal will result in a joint venture called Schaeffler Paravan Technologie, with Paravan’s know-how bolstering Schaeffler’s systems engineering, electronics and functional software expertise.

“Today’s agreement is a major milestone for Schaeffler,” Schaeffler’s deputy CEO and chief technology officer Peter Gutzmer said in a statement. “The acquisition of this tried and proven drive-by-wire technology gives us access to a key technology that will enable us to develop our chassis systems business division into a chassis systems integrator.”

Schaeffler has already developed a vehicle called the Mover, a concept for a small, versatile electric four-wheeler that can be combined with various body versions, potentially supporting a range of different urban mobility and transport needs.

The joint venture will have its operational headquarters in Aichelau and Herzogenaurach in Germany, headed by Paravan founder Roland Arnold and Schaeffler’s head of the business division Chassis Systems, Dirk Kesselgruber.

“Schaeffler is the perfect partner for further developing, scaling and industrializing our Space Drive technology,” Arnold, who will serve as CEO, said in the statement. “The company has technical expertise in a wide range of areas, particularly in the highly promising areas of mechatronics and mechanical actuator systems.”

Arnold added that just as important, in his view, is the fact that the two companies are a good cultural fit.

“As family-owned businesses, we have a similar outlook,” he said.

The race to acquire self-driving technology has accelerated this year. Last week, week auto parts supplier Magneti Marelli — a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler — announced the acquisition of French startup SmartMeUp, a developer of perception software for autonomous vehicle applications.

StartMeUp develops software for processing sensor signals, such as those for detecting and recognizing objects around the vehicle.

Hyundai is investing an undisclosed amount in Autotalks, an Israel-based fabless semiconductor company that is developing both vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technologies, which are considered essential to the future of autonomous driving.

South Korean auto parts supplier Hyundai Mobis announced in July that it has developed an electric power steering system optimized for autonomous vehicles.

Two independent electronic circuits are applied to one steering system, which means that even if one circuit breaks down, the other circuit will work normally and maintain stable driving.

While some analysts think mass-production of electronic steering systems is still a few years out, that lead time should give the automotive OEMs time to work out any implementation issues.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *