Two key themes have emerged at the VDI Baden Baden event this year. The first is perhaps the expected: reducing vehicle CO2 emissions. Numerous technical sessions have detailed developments in areas such as high-voltage networks and battery systems.
Baden Baden has also dealt with the pragmatic, however, with as much time seemingly given to the less high-profile but much higher volume start-stop technology. This mixture of developments for the future and practical solutions for now seems to hit the right mark. It's easy to get carried away on the hype of electric vehicles, but the reality is they'll make negligible impact on global vehicle emissions for many years to come. Stop start is almost the opposite - a technology that is growing incredibly fast with no hype at all. This pragmatism extended into and even dominated the final panel discussion, with delegates (largely engineers) being encourage to and tell the world about the severe difficulties in EV development, and puncture some of the hype - a siginificant difference in tone from the more public-facing IAA Frankfurt Motor show of a few weeks back!
The second main theme is a topic previously highlighted by Strategy Analytics in relation to its ongoing in-vehicle infotainment analysis: HMI. Although HMI issues have been bubbling in the background for a while, they have come to the fore at Baden Baden, with the significant challenge of reducing the apparent complexity of the vehicle to the driver at the same time as that complexity is growing faster than ever. There seems no firm agreement on the way forward: touchscreens have been both praised and dismissed as an important part of the solution! HMI touches also on the main theme of energy efficiency, in the the driver needs to be informed about how they are driving. This becomes vital in the electric vehicle, where the limited power on board means that decisions as to temperature, entertainment and cruising speed may make the difference between reaching your destination and not.
Other streams looked at areas including safety, vehicle architectures and AUTOSAR, but the two themes above highlight the essence of the event, as does the mix of the aspirational and pragmatic - with the emphasis on the latter.
The German auto industry may not have all the answers, but it has put out a believable vision of the future, and a potentially viable path to get there.