Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 17

A CLEAR MISSION
dlhBowles is finding innovative solutions to a dirty problem
BY PETE BIGELOW

W

hen the phone call came on a Friday night in late
March, John Saxon and his team didn't waste any
time before springing into action.
"It was bourbon down and laptops up," said Saxon, CEO at
dlhBowles, an Ohio-based supplier of automotive air and fluid
management systems. "The team went to work right away,
and many didn't sleep all weekend."
The company had reached an agreement with General
Motors to produce parts for essential medical equipment
amid the coronavirus pandemic, and its engineering team
forged plans to pivot its manufacturing capacity toward
making parts for ventilators. Such a transition would normally
take months, but dlhBowles condensed the time frame to a
matter of days.
"We may be conditioning the industry to think we can move
a whole lot faster," Saxon said.
The industry may already be well aware. When a federal
rule mandating all new cars have backup cameras went into
effect in 2018, demand for dlhBowles' camera-cleaning systems skyrocketed. Interest has only increased as automakers
bring driver-assist systems that contain cameras and other
sensors to the market.
That burgeoning business has allowed the company to
address an underappreciated but essential part of fully
self-driving vehicles - the need for sensors that help vehicles

detect objects and perceive the road ahead to not be obscured
by dirt, grime, ice and other contaminants.
In some respects, that brings the company's cleaning technology full circle. In the mid-2000s, a contractor asked dlhBowles to find a way to clean a long-range camera. The company was working on a design for a Department of Defense
competition involving autonomous vehicles. The DARPA challenges, of course, are now considered seminal events for the
nascent self-driving technology.
"It was a quick assignment with off-the-shelf parts," said
Russell Hester, dlhBowles' director of business development.
"They put it on the vehicle and said it did the job. But once we
wrapped that up, we didn't think much more of it."
Now, the company is at the forefront of solving a key
problem for both driver-assist and self-driving systems.
Beyond cameras, it's working with lidar companies, including
LeddarTech and Innoviz, to craft products for specific lidar
units, and dlhBowles says it will have its Cler sensor cleaning
products ready for use on a production vehicle in the 2021
model year.
"You have all these cool new systems like lane-keep assist
and dynamic cruise control on cars, and you can't have them
turning off because the sensors can't see clearly because of
a little bit of mud or salt spray," Hester said. "Customers are
expecting more from their products these days." ■

april 2020 * shift

17



Shift Magazine - April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Shift Magazine - April 2020

Shift Magazine - April 2020
From the Editor
Did You Know?
Into the Unknown
Q &A
The Coasts With the Most
And the Honorees Are ...
Trategic Startups
Last Mile
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Intro
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Shift Magazine - April 2020
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Cover2
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 3
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - From the Editor
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Did You Know?
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Into the Unknown
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 7
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Q &A
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 9
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - The Coasts With the Most
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 11
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - And the Honorees Are ...
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 13
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 14
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 15
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 16
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 17
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 18
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 19
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - 20
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Trategic Startups
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Last Mile
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Cover3
Shift Magazine - April 2020 - Cover4
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