“Something different that has impact” is how Eric Varton defined innovation to me in an interview for Automotive News’ “Daily Drive” podcast.
He’s Yazaki North America’s vice president of engineering. Last week, he picked up two PACE Awards on behalf of his teams. Once he got them, he said, he handed them to the innovators whose ideas inspired the winning products. You can see them celebrating on the front page of this week’s issue.
It’s not the first time a company has won multiple PACE Awards — Federal-Mogul Powertrain did it as recently as 2019. But it’s an amazing achievement, in light of the many outstanding improvements in automotive engineering over the past year — or any year.
Last week, I went to my second PACE Awards ceremony. It was my first time as an emcee, and my enthusiasm for what it represents remains strong. The awards are a celebration of the work that makes the auto industry better each and every year, building upon previous achievements to make automobiles safer, cleaner, more affordable or more enjoyable.
Yazaki won awards for more flexible, less cumbersome EV wires and a narrow-focus lens technology for high-bandwidth data optical transmission.
If you are an engineer, you already know what all that means (or are complaining that some nuance has been criminally trampled upon), while everyone else is nodding along like, “Yeah, that sounds important.”
And at the risk of losing nuance, let me say: Yes, these are important because we all demand that our cars transmit more data from end to end, whether we think about it or not. And for anyone trying to make an electric vehicle, being able to blast a big-ton of electrons through a wire that will unwind after a long trip and still fit snugly in a vehicle design — yeah, that’s valuable.