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Is Gothenburg the place to be? When Volvo Cars and many others are breaking new ground, disruptors are changing the infrastructure of the automotive industry and development of new technology is picking up pace we turned to Kent Eric Lång and Magda Collado to find out on what is going on at the Swedish automotive hub.

Kent Eric and Magda both work at RISE Viktoria and are conference moderators at Vehicle Electronics & Connected Services. Kent Eric is also leading VICTA hosted by Lindholmen Science Park, which is simulation lab that provides resources needed to test and demonstrate new vehicle functions to fast-track the process of acquiring a top automotive client. We had a chat with them to get their views and thoughts about the status of the Swedish automotive industry and what they are doing to help securing Gothenburg as an automotive hot spot.

Although there might be a risk of them being a bit bias, we asked them what differentiates Gothenburg from other automotive clusters and how competitive it actually is.

Sweden and Gothenburg have the huge advantage of bringing together well-established companies within the automotive and telecom sector with brilliant young minds and new approaches, all within a maximum 20 minutes radius of each other, says Magda. If you just look at Lindholmen Science Park, you will find a melting pot of industry, academia and public sector. The place is constantly expanding and new companies are being established. Examples during the last year is the accelerator MobilityXlab, a world leading AD software supplier in Zenuity and the decision of Geely to locate a major R&D centre there.

So far so good. We also asked her about the temperature of the innovative climate and it didn’t take her long to respond. 

It’s very hot! There are large recruitment campaigns going on. New SMEs and startups popping up, even from the incumbent’s side. Einride and Uniti are startups that are daring to actually get into vehicle manufacturing. Five years ago, this would have been unheard of. Both companies are good examples of how to establish new collaborations between mature and well-established companies like SIEMENs and Kuka Robotics, says Magda.

We then turned to Kent Eric to describe some of the co-operations and partnerships that make Gothenburg a hot spot.

ElectriCity, testing electrical buses in public transport operation, is a success from all 15 core partners. ElectriCity took first prize in the “operational and technical excellence” category in UITP Awards 2017. In the next phase automation of bus-maneuvers are also included. Volvo Cars and Autoliv have formed Zenuity to get critical mass to develop edge AD and ADAS technology. First for Volvo Cars and sold in the second wave via Autoliv around the world. The self-driving shuttle project S3 which brings together academia, public and private sector to develop mobility solutions with a focus on real-estate and city development, says Kent Eric.

He also gave us an introduction on what VICTA are doing to help push development within the automotive industry in Gothenburg.

VICTA was formed to support competence and innovation when digitalization push changes. The car industry must adapt processes and technology from the software industry. Implementation towards agile processes, continuous deployment and new supplier structure are pushed by autonomous driving. VICTA facilitates new partnerships and collaborations in many forums and projects. We also bridge students with industry-actors. VICTA lab is physical installation available to make it easier to demo and evaluate new functions, says Kent Eric.

Autonomous driving is really the talk of the town and we couldn’t resist asking Kent Eric when he believes we will see autonomous, driverless vehicles on the roads in Sweden.

Full automation, level 4, will take-off in heavy duty commercial vehicles in confined area like mines and construction sites, says Kent Eric. Already today you can see pilots with self-driving shuttles being carried out in Kista, which is another early application. Zenuity and Volvo’s cars being tested in Gothenburg, but I think it will take some time to validate the functions. We have seen advanced motion control demonstrated by Sentient in front of the Swedish king or by Einride at our unique test track AstaZero.

He then continued and gave us his thoughts about what kind of legislation is needed to make that happen.

Europe has a history of strong regulations and focus on safety. Sweden has a long reputation of traffic safety, it’s a core characteristic that distinguish Swedish OEMs. Hence, any changes to laws and regulations will be carefully scrutinized. The government appointed an investigator in 2015 who will analyze the regulatory changes needed for introducing driver-support technology and completely or partially self-driving vehicles on roads. The proposal for trials with self-driving vehicles in public traffic was presented in 2016 and approved in 2017. The proposal for changes to allow implementation in public traffic was presented 7th March 2018. A balanced and complete proposal on more than 1600 pages, says Kent Eric.

To get this going you need to be agile. The automotive industry has previously been classified as a slow-moving vessel but Magda believes that there are potential for the manufacturers to accelerate pace of innovation high enough to get on board.

What we are seeing is an ecosystem being built up, where the manufacturers are sharing the risks through partnerships. If you look at Volvo Cars as an example, they have formed the Volvo Mobility unit which is actually located outside of their HQ in Gothenburg, and instead chose Stockholm where they can be closer to software startups. This will most likely provide them an arena for radical innovation, says Magda.

And finally, we asked Magda about the current trends in e-mobility and to share her thoughts about how it will develop within the next years.

The technology is more mature and the market penetration has grown, now it’s mainly about changing behavior and finding new business models. There are new vehicle models being offered in almost every segment but it’s still a very low share of the market (around 1% in Sweden). Electromobility conferences are now mainly being attended by utility companies, while the car manufacturers are showcasing EVs in traditional car shows. V2G and smart grids are topics being discussed more than the actual cars themselves now. The economic case is very good in the commercial vehicles such as buses and we see that pentograph charging could become a standardized solution for these vehicles in urban environments. There’s new development in electric roads and Sweden is spending a lot of money on investigating how to make heavy duty transport fossil free. Sweden is a leading country in such development. Collaborations with Germany to have electric roads connecting both countries for enabling long distance transport is under way.