German auto supplier Robert Bosch has seen a surge in demand for radar systems and video sensors as automakers race to add driver assistance features and automated functions to cars.The company said on Tuesday it expected sales of radar systems to leap by 60 percent, and video sensors by 80 percent, this year.It forecast sales at its mobility solutions division, which makes sophisticated safety systems as well as autonomous car components, would grow around 7 percent this year, benefiting from a broader push to make vehicles more intelligent.Last year, the mobility solutions division - which employs 227,000 staff - made 43.9 billion euros ($49.8 billion) in sales, accounting for 60 percent of Bosch's sales."We are growing faster than the market," management board member Rolf Bulander said in a statement.Bosch delivers advanced safety systems to all of the world's largest automotive companies as well as start-up carmakers. It developed the electric powertrain and steering for Google's prototype autonomous vehicle and is a supplier of driver assistance systems to Tesla.Bosch has around 3,000 developers working on highly automated driving systems, a market which is booming as simple anti-collision technologies like automated braking systems evolve into sophisticated crash avoidance programmes using camera and radar to detect collisions.
Last year, sales of driver assistance systems, which include radar and video sensors used for emergency braking and cruise control functions, reached 1 billion euros, with the company receiving orders for a further 3.5 billion worth of assistance systems, Bosch said.Beyond this, the company is expanding into areas such as software, services, internet-connected devices and electric cars.In doing so, it is moving into new businesses like short-term motorbike rental, giving it direct access to new consumers and also potentially putting it in competition with its traditional clients: car and motorbike manufacturers that have also launched short-term ride-hailing and rental services.
"While there are market segments where we are clearly a supplier, there are markets which are not yet developed where new players are emerging, this includes us," Bulander said.Bosch declined to detail which emerging mobility markets, like for example ride-hailing, it is targeting next, but said by the end of 2017, its mobility solutions business would have 48,000 research and development staff, increasing its overall headcount by roughly 4,000.Bosch forecast significant growth in the market for electric scooters and microcars, driven mainly be demand from China and countries like Taiwan. Already this market has seen sales rise from 58,000 in 1998, to more than 30 million per year in Asia.