CLEPA's jury awarded 12 innovation prizes across 4 categories (Photo: Arjen Bongard)

ROME -- European automotive suppliers gathered here last week to honor a range of companies and products that will likely play a key role in the transformation of personal mobility.

The European suppliers association, CLEPA, awarded innovation awards to Nvidia, Robert Bosch, Continental, ZF, Volkswagen and other automotive companies for products in the areas of environment, safety, connectivity and automation, and cooperation.

The focus of this year's "CLEPA Innovation Awards" was squarely on the changes sweeping the global auto industry. Suppliers submitted for review products and systems for electrified powertrains, improved safety and sustainability, automated and autonomous driving and other technologies that will help transform the industry.

"I have been really impressed by the passion, know-how and commitment from participating companies," said CLEPA Secretary General Sigrid de Vries.

CLEPA President Roberto Vavassori, a management board member of Italian brake maker Brembo, said European suppliers are committed to playing a key role in the auto industry's move toward more sustainable and safer personal mobility. Calling the changes an "exciting journey into unprecedented and fascinating territory," Vavassori said: "We have to remain and we will remain at the forefront of technology."

Suppliers are estimated to contribute almost 80 pc of the value of the average car and European suppliers in 2016 invested more than 22 billion euros in research and innovation.

Chip maker Nvidia won the award for connectivity and innovation with its Drive PX2 computing system, which is designed to use so-called "deep learning" to fine-tune autonomous and assisted-driving functions.

Robert Bosch was awarded second prize for a braking system especially designed for automated driving, while supplier Flex received third prize for a smart gateway module that will improve connectivity. The gateway module also featured in the first prize for cooperation, which was won by Flex and its customer Volkswagen.

In the area of cooperation, the second prize went to supplier Wabco and ZF, which jointly developed an evasive maneuvering function for trucks. The technology also was awarded third prize in the safety category.

Inteva and Mercedes won the third cooperation prize for a structurally integrated panoramic sliding roof.

The electrification of the powertrain and the need to add a 48 volt electrical architecture to cars were recognized in the awards in the category "Environment." Here Continental and Huber & Suhner were each awarded first prize for, respectively, a 48 volt belt starter generator and a high-power charging system.

Wabco received second prize for AutoTail, an innovative automatic trailer tail system for trucks that is designed to generate significant fuel savings.

Third prize in the environment category went to MCE-5 for its variable compression ratio technology.

In the category "Safety," first prize went to Continental's "Road Condition Observer," which classifies the road surface condition with regard to tire-road friction.

The second prize was awarded to IEE's VitaSense, a radio-based technology that determines whether occupants are still in the car after the driver has left. The technology was developed partly in response to statistics that show that 750 children have died from heatstroke in parked cars in the US since 1990.

Many of the products and systems that received awards were defined by software. Said CLEPA President  Vavassori: "Not everybody knows that a modern car has much more software on board than a large commercial airplane."

Consultants Deloitte supported the annual CLEPA Innovation Awards. The 56 entries from 31 automotive suppliers were evaluated by an independent jury of industry experts.

-By Arjen Bongard