◆Thinking About the Technology Needed for the Future, and Expanding Our Knowledge by Working Toward the Ideal
── Why did NSK develop this product?
MasafumiAt NSK, we often talk about what the vehicles of the future will require. We exchange and refine our ideas about what parts will be needed ahead of changes in the global environment and advances in technology.
Our clients are moving forward to address the increasing electrification of cars, autonomous driving, and sustainability. We stand ready to support them with our original solutions such as wave power generation, in-motion wireless charging in-wheel motors, and the Cluster Rover Module, a drive module for autonomous vehicles.
It's challenging to identify how consumer choices will shape the future when autonomous driving is put into practice for public transport and in the service sector. Obviously, if maximizing usable interior space is better, we thought that vehicles will probably become box-shaped. So a new drive module will be needed, and this is the Cluster Rover Module.
It took about a year to put the idea together. We were able to implement it surprisingly quickly, mainly because we adopted technologies that NSK had worked on previously for the components, such as the technology to reduce the size of the in-wheel motor speed reducer and the pantograph actuator construction.
What is significant about NSK, a bearings manufacturer, embracing these new challenges?
MasafumiNSK is not necessarily thinking about mass producing the Cluster Rover Module as a product. Our business has more to do with the components used, such as bearings, ball screws, and actuators.
The advantage of developing an entire module is that we can assess in advance how the components are used and design the optimum bearings and actuators. In the future, drive modules for box-shaped autonomous EVs might not take the exact form that we are predicting, but there probably won't be a significant divergence in terms of the functions.
RyuhoThe development of the Cluster Rover Module was a new project for us, and we have learned a lot from working on it. We didn't have much expertise with springs, and the construction and integration of a pantograph and load sensors were also new challenges.
We can't build up our know-how in optimizing bearings and ball screws without trying out a diverse range of applications. In that sense, I think expanding our future potential and embracing new challenges has great significance. Also, I felt it was an extremely rewarding job on a personal level because I got to directly translate my own ideas into concrete form.
MasafumiHaving a go at something new also lowers the hurdle for the next challenge. There's also a lot of scope for broadening our range of technology and knowledge. We want to set the future in motion inside and outside the company and make a difference in societies around the world.
We don't know exactly what the future of mobility will look like. But if we continue to strive to solve social issues and meet the needs of the public, NSK will be indispensable to society, which will in turn ensure that NSK itself keeps growing sustainably.