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The technology group WABCO has recently became a leading partner of Plug and Play, a global innovation platform based in Silicon Valley that has a network of 1,100 global startups. Through this partnership, it will collaborate with a number of startups to share skillsets and expand its Autonomous, Connected and Electric (ACE) portfolio.

Auto Futures discussed this new cooperation with Dr. Gandert Van Raemdonck, WABCO’s Global Head of Technology Scouting.

WABCO has a history of innovation. 150 years ago the company founder, George Westinghouse invented the air brake system, a technological breakthrough that greatly improved the safety and performance of U.S. railways.

To this day, the Westinghouse Air Brake Company (now known more succinctly as WABCO) remains forward-looking. 

“Today’s problems and challenges are becoming more and more complex. To overcome this, collaboration is becoming increasingly important; it is no longer about being a single standalone entity anymore. With Plug and Play, we can solve this complexity with open innovation by collaborating with other partners on specific solutions,” says Van Raemdonck.

Van Raemdonck joined WABCO seven years ago with extensive experience in the research and development of aerodynamics solutions. In May 2019 he was appointed Global Head of Technology Scouting, a role that gives him global responsibility for scouting new technologies, trends, start- and scale-ups for WABCO.

Van Raemdonck will head a permanently hosted office in Plug and Play’s Silicon Valley headquarters.  

He explains: “Being physically together with startups in one location at Plug and Play gives the culture of innovation a new spin and has the potential to change the mindset of all players involved. Every day something is going on in the Plug and Play community.”

Saeed Amidi, Plug and Play Founder and CEO, adds: “Together we can evaluate new technologies and implement new ideas that will enhance safety during all stages of mobility, Smart City and Autonomous Vehicles on the road. It is companies like WABCO that help us implement new technology at the speed of startups and entrepreneurship.”

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Expanding Its ACE Portfolio

In Europe, WABCO is working closely with STARTUP AUTOBAHN, a platform based in Stuttgart, Germany, that connects startups with industry-leading corporate partners to pilot new technology.

“We are still at the very beginning of this cooperation, but we already have some interesting contacts and are looking for new innovative solutions. We can definitely imagine developing products with our customers and potential partners. We are also open to collaborating with different types of companies and are truly eager to see what will happen in the coming months,” says Van Raemdonck.

A key focus for WABCO is the expansion of its ACE portfolio as the company looks to grow its IoT and cloud-based technology capabilities.

“In conjunction with the IoT, vehicles will communicate with each other as well as with the infrastructure. Due to increased connectivity, vehicles will become more and more intelligent, while the infrastructure and characteristics of road traffic will change and thus pave the way for automated driving,” predicts Van Raemdonck.

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Advancing Safety and Efficiency

WABCO has worked with startups before. In fact the company acquired Van Raemdonck’s own startup Ephicas B.V. back in 2012. But collaborations like the ones with Plug and Play are shaping a new era of innovation for WABCO.

“We have also been changing our internal innovation processes to adapt to the ever-increasing speed of industry developments – and they are still subject to change. Our Technology Scouting department is part of our new innovation process and illustrates our commitment and focus to investigating technologies that can help us make leaps in innovation. I believe that this dedication is key to our continued success in the future.”

WABCO is currently working on a number of different solutions, including sensors and monitoring technologies, to further advance vehicle safety and efficiency.

“Our passion is to make a difference by saving lives and protecting the environment. This is why we constantly look for solutions that satisfy today’s and tomorrow’s needs of our industry, and we are looking forward to presenting our new innovations. We are sure that we can share some milestones in the near future.”

Looking further into the future, Van Raemdonck forecasts that fully connected vehicles will become the standard.

“In connection with the Internet of Things, vehicles will communicate both with each other and with the infrastructure, even with vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. Increasing connectivity and advanced algorithms will make vehicles more intelligent, while the infrastructure and characteristics of road traffic will change, paving the way for automated driving.”

He concludes: “We are already on our way to a connected, digitized world – an amazing world with great potential and enormous impact on our daily lives.”

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