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Creating the future of autonomous driving with chemical materials by uncovering hidden needs in this field. Creating the future of autonomous driving with chemical materials by uncovering hidden needs in this field.

Untapped needs still exist for the devices and precision equipment that support the realization of autonomous driving. Understanding the technology necessary for autonomous driving provides a glimpse of the role that manufactures play comes into view. Naoki Suganuma is an associate professor at Kanazawa University. He leads the team to become the first Japanese university to conduct verification tests for autonomous driving on Japanese roads. He joins Nobuhiro Shinka, Marketing Department General Manager in the Chemicals Division at Daikin Industries, to discuss what chemical manufacturers can do in the field of autonomous driving.

Shinka
Daikin Industry Chemical Div. Marketing Dept. General Manager Nobuhiro Shinka

The Chemicals Division has a research center in San Jose, United States. Here we have committed resources to activities in pursuit of advanced technologies to leverage the special properties of chemical materials, including applications for autonomous driving and life science. Professor Suganuma, during your approximately 20 years of conducting research on autonomous driving, have you ever collaborated with overseas research institutes?

Suganuma

I’m a member of various international societies and participate in international conferences where information is exchanged. Because we have many technologies, we perform peer reviews and are able to follow the general trends of laboratories with cutting edge research.

Shinka

From a global perspective, do you think which countries and which manufactures are one-step ahead?

Suganuma
Kanazawa Univ. Associate Professor Naoki Suganuma

Apart from the information that a manufacturer discloses to the media, manufacturers generally do not provide details. In the scientific community, there is a strong impression that U.S. and German manufacturers are more active in announcing results. European and American manufacturers typically have people engaged in research who have doctorate degrees. Unfortunately, in Japan, rather than conducting research, cars belong to the world of engineering and are regarded as a mature field of study.

Expertise of chemical manufacturers necessary to refine sensors and radar

Scene of talk 1
Shinka

Recently, there have been many incidents of elderly people mistaking the accelerator for the brake. Just preventing this would be meaningful for society. Do you have any advice for chemical manufactures on how they can contribute to the sensors for autonomous driving to eliminate this problem?

Suganuma

One example would be the great need for technology that automatically cleans dirt and stains on sensors and makes it difficult for sensors to get dirty in the first place.

When driving several hundred kilometers on the highway, there are many cases of hordes of insects sticking to the car. Because the stain sticks on the sensors, there is a need to equip sensors inside the car. However, the surfaces of window screen are occurred reflections. Even in the case of cameras, the light entering the camera generates a diffused reflection between the glass surface and the lens, making it difficult to see. There is even a demand to transmit only the light of the signal component you want to see. When speaking of “visibility,” the visibility of a sensor differs from that of a person. Consequently, there are many ways that a chemical manufacturer can contribute such as technological development that makes it easy for sensors to detect the necessary light.

Autonomous vehicle used for public road driving

autonomous vehicle used for public road driving

Shinka

Our fluorochemicals have the characteristic of being stain-resistant as seen in the case of the coating used for fry pans. Additionally, we also have put efforts into technological development of surface functional materials for controlling reflection, improving surface repellency, hydrophilicity, and durability, and hardening surfaces. Processing technology, including analysis and evaluation, is naturally Daikin’s strength and is used in prevention of camera-related fouling, optical control, and optical fiber materials.

Because visibility as seen by the human eye is easy to evaluate, it is being incorporated into material design, but in the future it will be necessary to evaluate and analyze from the standpoint of visibility as seen by a sensor.

Suganuma

Manufacturers involved with sensor devices and signal processing are searching for materials and chemical components corresponding to the special characteristics of sensors. As the product development cycle becomes quicker when these manufacturers can effectively collaborate with chemical manufacturers from the initial design stage, this provides a very good situation.

Scene of talk 2
Shinka

In November 2015, we established a research facility called the Technology and Innovation Center (TIC). It supports Daikin’s air conditioning and chemicals divisions and has 700 researchers specializing in mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering. Here we are collaborating with outside universities, research organizations, and other companies while experimenting with new product development in the form of open innovation.

Technology and Innovation Center

Technology and Innovation Center

Suganuma

From the university perspective, there are many opportunities for us to consult with a variety of companies. Companies that practice open innovation give us the impression that they have materials with a bright future.

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