“First of all, our specialisation now is the human machine interface”
In 1998 when I founded the ED Group we were really different to other companies. We started by supplying carmakers with electrical and electronic parts. This is very important to understand.
No other company, not only in Italy but around the world, started in this way because everybody else put their emphasis on the body, the interior trim, suspension, mechanics or something else. This is why the company remains after almost 20 years and continues to grow.
The world has changed. The HMI is one of the things we sell around the world to support new experiences inside the car.
In 2015 we did this dream car, a race car – the Torq concept. It was completely autonomous, but we continue to deliver very concrete things like HMI and engineering, not only for concepts but for production cars, too.
Since the beginning we studied electronic architecture, every wiring harness inside, and every single electrical and electronic component that makes up a car. It’s a sector that grows very fast. Arguably, it’s become the foremost field inside the car.
We do HMI systems based on software, hardware and the user interface. When some people talk about HMI they only talk about what the customer uses, but it’s more than that.
There’s so much going on inside, hidden behind the screen and we are really able to do that. We have developed some things differently, because at the moment many HMIs only use a mirror link from your smartphone or something else.
What we are developing, with the possibility to sell to our clients, is not only an interface and new software or hardware, but to design every single component used in the HMI. The first production cars that will see this approach will be launched in China for two Chinese brands in two production SUVs, one in 2018 and the other in 2019.
In terms of functionality this experience is better because you don’t just control your car using touch – as with usual HMIs that you find in every car – but after a single touch you have the possibility to move your hand in the air to register every single movement like a switch. You can adjust your seat, or turn the air from the air vent on and off. You can ‘push buttons’ just by moving your hand in the air.
More broadly, what makes ED different? First of all, we take the opportunity with the carmaker for both design and engineering to stay at the table. Because no-one understands the time you don’t lose by investing at the start to get a good package to develop a really good new car – and avoid fighting between design and the engineering departments.
The second step is that our quality comes not only from Italian guys. We are an international company and use people from every part of the world inside our design team. This is one of the reasons why I can say to my customer that we are better than the others, because we have many different cultures and know what any specific market wants in that moment.
We also follow what the client wants. Sometimes designers do not want to follow what the client wants, they follow their ego. And sometimes, the engineering team doesn’t want to change. I come from an engineering background so I know how it goes, ‘the chassis must be this, the package must be that, please designers, follow this package,’ but sometimes the designer doesn’t have the possibility to sketch things well within this package.
At this moment, we support our customer to find a way. Not to completely delete that package, but to modify it to arrive at a good design solution.
We are a big team, not only in design or in engineering but in strategy too. Our ideas can help develop planning for a new project, or any new target the customer has, to sell a car in the market. With our new facility in Rivoli they can stay here and develop the car with us, too.
One of our first departments within ED was the benchmarking department. Starting in 2002, using a methodology and software, we continue to grow this service for our customers so they know immediately their competitors. At the same time, we look at ‘design to cost’ from the beginning to avoid having to re-engineer many parts later.
Years ago when I was at Italdesign as its electrical and electronics chief, I worked more for Mr Mantovani, not so much Mr Giugiaro [the two founders], and at that time, the scope of work requested was different. The timing now is much shorter, so you have to find new methodologies and arrive at your goal before the others. And then you have to think immediately: ‘What’s the next step?’
In the beginning of 2014 we developed the first design team inside ED [with ED Design CEO and design director Michael Robinson], and within that team every single person has to push every day and be more responsible than before.
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