Ovidiu Mățan: You have been leading Bosch Engineering Center Cluj for a few months now. How was the transition into your new role, and how do you see the integration of the technologies developed in Cluj into the Bosch global ecosystem?
Frank Wolf: I took over the role of Head of Bosch Engineering Center Cluj this year in July, and since then I am responsible for leading this great organization with more than 800 employees and about 200 interns. The transition from my previous position in Germany - where I was the global leader for a product's development - into my new role here in Cluj was a challenge and a great pleasure at the same time. The biggest challenge in this process was, of course, the Coronavirus pandemic, which made my relocation quite 'bumpy', full of changes and uncertainties. However, the most difficult thing for me was not being able to meet my new colleagues face-to-face. So far, I still haven't had the chance to address my entire team in person, but we are constantly communicating via video messages and e-mails.
Frank Wolf - Head of Bosch Engineering Center Cluj
Nevertheless, despite all the current provocations of social distancing and online work, in the last couple of months I met great people here at Engineering Center Cluj - people who inspire me - and it is a great pleasure for me to work together with them. Moreover, during this period, I also had the opportunity to become familiar with all of the Center's ongoing strategic projects, and my plans for future development have started to crystalize. I believe, that the over twenty years of my international professional experience and leading large organizations will help me create a new, effective strategy that will see to secure the continuity of the Engineering Center Cluj success story.
It was not a surprise for me to discover that all projects and technologies developed in Cluj are all in line with Bosch' global strategic pursuits in the areas of mobility and IoT. We develop products and services for automated, electrified and connected mobility and we aim for a safe, sustainable and personalized future of mobility. To be more specific, we are working on new solutions for drivers' assistance systems via video, radar and ultrasonic sensor technologies, we are creating software and hardware solutions for the electric steering and traditional as well, and also electric or hybrid powertrain systems. Moreover, we are making plans to have a greater contribution to the fuel cells technology projects, and we will also try to increase our share in Multi Market projects.
Autonomous driving is a high profile development area where the Engineering Center Cluj team has a great contribution. We saw over the time different demos like automated parking, automatic braking or object recognition software running during driving. Tell us more about these solutions, and what do you think the next smart solution by Bosch will be in this area?
Frank Wolf: Indeed, autonomous driving is one of our strategic development directions at Bosch, and here in Cluj. The ultimate goal is to have an accident-free, safe and comfortable future mobility, where the driver is being transformed into a passenger and the car drives autonomously without any human supervision. Fully autonomous cars that can drive on their own in the city, or in many different traffic scenarios, are still a thing of the future, but automated or autonomous systems which can take over from the driver in certain traffic scenarios are already out on the market. The examples you mentioned earlier are perfect to illustrate this idea.
The Automated Valet Parking (AVP) is the first fully automated system, which finds an available parking spot and parks the car without any human intervention, thus saving time for the driver and also being efficient at using the space to its full capacity. The other example, the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), is a driver assistance system, which reduces the risk of a collision. However, in this second scenario the driver still has to be active. In a risky situation, the system warns the driver and initiates partial braking or provides braking support, thus offering a faster driver reaction in critical situations. The latter system uses camera technology to detect, recognize and classify objects as pedestrians, other vehicles, bicycles etc., then triggers a warning or an emergency braking maneuver if needed. Such smart cameras are becoming more and more popular in today's cars. In terms of automated driving, the next big thing from Bosch will surely be either a new innovative solution for the drivers' assistance, either a fully automated system, but this if something that I cannot tell more about at this moment. What I know for sure is that these new intelligent solutions will make our driving experience safer, more enjoyable and more efficient.
Frank Wolf: *Electrification is another important development area for Bosch where the Engineering Center Cluj team is also involved. Tell us more about your projects in this area*.
Electrification is certainly another area with high importance right now, as Bosch intends to become market leader for electromobility on the mass market. Therefore, Bosch has already developed electric powertrain systems and solutions for hybrid or purely electric battery-powered drives or for fuel cell technology. Moreover, when talking about electromobility, I would like to highlight that we, at Bosch, are working on e-solutions not only for cars, but also for bikes, motorcycles, trucks and even for baby strollers, and that besides powertrains, Bosch offers also connected electric charging solutions both for end-users and companies as well.
I personally see full cell technologies as the most sustainable and healthy possible solutions in certain driving scenarios. A first interesting scenario could be, for example, when discussing long distances - of course, if we are to succeed with producing hydrogen in alternative ways with no carbon emission, from water or solar energy. I think that electric and hybrid cars are already having a positive impact on the air quality in cities, however, the cleanest solution can be offered by powertrains running on hydrogen produced using renewable energy. Bosch is taking the first steps in this direction by developing the fuel-cell powertrain primarily with a focus on trucks, and the company plans to start production in 2022-2023. Then, hopefully, fuel-cell powertrains will increasingly find their way into passenger cars too.
How has the COVID pandemic affected your day-to-day operations?
Frank Wolf: Luckily, the pandemic hasn't caused major disruptions in our daily operations. In the first part of the year, the transition to Home Office was quite smooth. We managed to deliver all our tasks successfully and kept our business running. During the lockdown period, we started implementing all necessary safety and preventive measures so that our colleagues who were to return to the office or to our laboratories in Jucu had a safe return to work. We were planning to invite all our colleagues to gradually return to the office at least a few days per week, and interact more with their team members. On the other hand, now that the second wave of the pandemic is unfolding, we need to readjust our plans and make sure to keep our loved ones, our colleagues and our partners safe.
What I believe the biggest negative impact this pandemic will have on our business' efficiency, on the long term, is the lack of socializing and human connection. This is the reason why we have advocated for returning to the office in a controlled, safe way - to stay in touch with our colleagues and maintain our social relations. Nevertheless, as our safety comes first, whenever the circumstances change, we reanalyse the situation and do not take any unnecessary risks. And if we need to work from home for a longer period of time, I advise my colleagues to stay in touch with each other, whether by video or phone calls, or in any possible way, so that we can stand together and help each other in this difficult period.
Tell us few words about your collaboration with local universities and why is this important for Bosch?
Frank Wolf: Investing in education is one of the strategic pillars of Engineering Center Cluj ever since its foundation. Our goal is to improve the quality of education on one hand, and to prepare the young engineers for a successful career in the automotive industry on the other. Along the years, my colleagues have developed strong partnerships with local prestigious universities such as the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca and Babes-Bolyai University. Currently, we are running together with our partners, three Master programs and three university courses, PhD & diploma projects and the Bosch Summer School Program for Mechanical Designers - just to mention the local ones.
Frank Wolf: On the other hand, one of the unique student programs we are conducting, in partnership with universities from all over Europe, is Bosch Future Mobility Challenge, an international technical competition initiated by Engineering Center Cluj in 2017. Each year, we invite student teams to develop autonomous driving algorithms for cars built at a scale of 1/10, and to contribute to developing the future of mobility together with us. For this year's competition, 42 teams from 5 countries registered to participate. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the competition finals were moved to online with the participation of the best ten teams. What I can sincerely state is that these young students impressed me not only with their technical know-how, but also with their enthusiasm and passion for building a better future.
What are your impressions about Cluj and how do you like it here so far?
Frank Wolf: Cluj-Napoca is a colorful, international and dynamic city. The wonderful nature around the city with all the tremendous views is, for me, even more impressive as I am a great fan of mountain biking, and this is just the perfect place for that. Overall, I can say that the people and the nature surrounding the city inspire me, and I feel very lucky to be here.
by Vlad Precup