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Executive Interview

Nobuo Goto

Executive Vice PresidentHead of Technology Development Division HQ

Autonomous driving may eliminate the need for humans to steer, but new systems for controlling vehicle movement will always be required.

Although consumer expectations of motor vehicles have shifted drastically over the years, some things have remained constant. Society has always sought a world with less pollution, less traffic, and fewer accidents, and NSK has worked alongside automakers to develop the technology to make this possible. The automotive industry is currently facing a paramount technology shift. As electric cars and fuel cell vehicles become more common, electric motors will eventually replace the combustion engine.

At the same time, in the technological race for autonomous vehicles, the industry is shifting from advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that merely aid drivers, toward fully driverless cars. It's safe to say that the cars of the future won’t require “steering” as we know it today. But while autonomous driving may eliminate the need for humans to steer, new systems and mechanisms for controlling vehicle movement will always be required.

The advanced technologies developed by NSK over the last 100 years will give us the edge in steering and beyond.

In modern combustion-engine automobiles, energy is transmitted from the pistons to the wheels to drive the vehicle forward. The forward momentum is then controlled by the driver via the steering system, which conveys movement from the steering wheel to angle the tires left or right. The electric motor, however, could ultimately free us from the constraints of this framework. We can eliminate the need for intermediary shafts, for instance, by attaching motors directly to each wheel and controlling the rotation speed or angle of each one individually.

NSK began developing and manufacturing steering systems in the 1960s. From the late 80s, we began shifting our focus to electric power steering (EPS). The advanced technologies we’ve developed in the production of manually controlled steering systems over the last half century will give us the edge we need to develop the technology to go driverless and beyond. And with NSK’s Four Core Technologies—tribology, materials, numerical simulation, and mechatronics—developed over our last 100 years as a bearing manufacturer, we are positioned to expand into completely new businesses and industries.

Have what it takes to build the future? Join the team that moves the world.

NSK has operated as an independent manufacturer since our founding, working alongside automakers and automotive system manufacturers from around the world. Our independence from any one controlling company has allowed us to quickly adapt to new trends and pave our own way forward. Our EPS development and manufacturing functions were previously administered by our automotive component division, but in 2016—our 100th anniversary—we established a new steering and actuator division to lead our EPS business forward. We have positioned ourselves to excel across an array of technologies that move and control motor vehicles.

At NSK, we are looking for people eager to join us on our journey into new and emerging fields. We are excited to welcome engineers and professionals ready to drive another 100 years of innovation as we work together to develop new technologies for self-driving cars.

Have what it takes to build the future? Join the team that moves the world.

NOBUO GOTO

Note: Department names and job titles reflect those at the time of the interview.