Theme 6
SDGs and Sumitomo: Safety

 One-point explanation
In 2019 there were 3,215 road traffic accident fatalities in Japan (deaths within 24 hours from the occurrence of accidents), a tragic loss of precious lives but nevertheless the lowest number since the National Police Agency began compiling statistics in 1948. Meanwhile, the number of such fatalities worldwide has been trending upward. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.35 million people perished as a result of road traffic accidents in 2016, some 200,000 more than in 2000. From the statistics, it is starkly evident that the incidence of road traffic accident fatalities is far higher in low-income countries than in affluent ones. Thus, the need to ensure greater safety on the roads is a pressing issue for societies around the world. Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” includes a clear traffic accident reduction target: By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.
To reduce the number of road traffic accidents and thus bring greater safety and security to everyday life, Sumitomo Group companies are pursuing various initiatives in which they are leveraging their core competencies. Sumitomo Riko’s technology for monitoring drivers’ vital signs, Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service’s driving skills training program, and Sumitomo Wiring Systems’ evaluation of the impact electromagnetic noise on electrical components of automobiles that can compromise safe mobility—all are promising initiatives linked to the SDG target that can protect precious lives.

Koichi Kozuka
Director, SDGs Design Center
Nikkei BP Consulting

Sumitomo Precision Products Co., Ltd.

From on the road to deep in space. Readying increasingly sophisticated technology with an eye to future needs

The clean room located within the site of SPP’s Amagasaki head office & main plant is fulfilling a vital role in R&D and manufacturing of the company, which has achieved growth with its innovative future-oriented technology. (The photo is the clean room of sensor manufacturer Silicon Sensing Products Ltd., a joint venture between SPP and Collins Aerospace.)

To tackle a host of pressing issues confronting society, Sumitomo Precision Products (SPP) deploys various vital in-house-developed technologies incorporated in its wide-ranging products. For example, SPP offers equipment essential for flight safety, such as landing gear control systems for aircraft and heat management systems for aero engines. Back on land, SPP’s ozone generators treat water and wastewater for swimming pools, aquariums, manufacturing processes, etc. Hit the road, and your car may well be equipped with SPP sensors and sensing systems, while infrastructure underpinning everyday life also incorporates SPP equipment. The bottom line is greater safety and convenience for everyone.

SPP’s businesses are the expression of a corporate culture rooted in the Sumitomo Group’s business philosophy whose overarching principal is that Sumitomo’s business must benefit the nation and society as well as Sumitomo itself. Accordingly, always with an eye to the future, SPP has sought to align R&D and commercialization with needs already apparent or emerging in society. SPP is currently implementing a mid-term business plan covering fiscal years 2020 to 2022. To illuminate a path to the future while tackling social issues through business every step of the way, SPP embedded its initiatives addressing such issues in the mid-term business plan by tagging its business with specific SDGs.

Left: A module consists of a pair of MEMS gyroscopes so that each gyroscope monitors the other in case of malfunction caused by radiation in space. The long side is about 15cm. Right: In a MEMS gyroscope, mechanically vibrating silicon ring oscillators measure motion.

Because the company’s MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) gyroscopes for measuring angular velocity of rotational motion have such an important bearing on safety, they are attracting plenty of interest. SPP’s development and manufacture of MEMS dating back to the 1990s was originally prompted by the growing need for innovation in semiconductor manufacturing processes. MEMS gyroscopes, mass-produced by the company since around 2000, have been widely adopted for automotive electronic stability control and have earned an excellent reputation, particularly for their contribution to safety.

Thus, mass-produced MEMS gyroscopes have become a staple of the automotive industry while also finding applications in other fields. By virtue of their unique structure allowing attainment of higher accuracy, SPP’s MEMS gyroscopes are different from those of other companies. Eager to leverage that advantage, SPP has been pursuing R&D to improve the precision of MEMS gyroscopes since around 2010.

This was a new approach for SPP in that previously the company conceived of a solution to an existing need of a customer or society and only then embarked on product development. In contrast, SPP has been endeavoring to improve the precision of MEMS gyroscopes through R&D prior to the emergence of applications, such as higher-precision sensors for rocket attitude control.

MEMS gyroscopes are already used for rocket attitude control. While attitude control adjusts the engine steering angle and the thruster output, guidance & control put the rocket into the desired orbit.

Seeking aerospace applications for MEMS gyroscopes offering the outstanding reliability required in harsh environments, SPP participated in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Open Lab program, a joint research scheme to promote the application of technology from the private sector in JAXA’s rocket components. R&D of higher-precision MEMS gyroscopes began in 2012 as part of the JAXA Open Lab program.

SPP’s high-precision MEMS gyroscopes are already used in sensors for space rocket attitude control and guidance & control for navigation. Compared with the ring laser gyroscopes conventionally used for rockets, SPP’s MEMS gyroscopes are lighter, consume less power and are cheaper to manufacture. These attributes make them an excellent choice for application in the rockets of privately funded aerospace manufacturers and space transportation services companies, high-growth segments of the aerospace industry.

SPP intends to expand the application field of MEMS gyroscopes beyond the aerospace field. For example, promising applications include attitude control of equipment used for exploration in search of natural resources underground or underwater where GPS information is unavailable. Similar to in outer space, durability is indispensable for applications in such adverse environments, as well as compactness, light weight, and low cost. Thus, SPP’s development capabilities are a focus of high expectations. SPP will maintain the tempo of efforts to maximize its contribution to the infrastructure supporting comfortable and convenient lifestyles by continually raising the performance and expanding the application field of MEMS technology.

Sumitomo Wiring Systems, Ltd.

Evaluating impacts of electromagnetic noise on electrical components by simulating driving conditions to contribute to safe and secure mobility

At the test facility on the site of Suzuka Plant of Sumitomo Wiring Systems, chassis dynamometers simulating driving conditions of a vehicle are installed in the floor.

The progress of technological innovation of automobiles, such as electrification and connected cars, will increase the number of electronic devices mounted on vehicles. Once autonomous driving comes into its own, external communication and interconnection of on-board devices will surge ahead. This wave also means automobiles will incorporate more and more devices that are sources of on-board electromagnetic noise.

Precision electronic devices don’t like electromagnetic noise. Sumitomo Wiring Systems manufactures wiring harnesses, as well as harness components, for automobiles. The need to control electromagnetic noise from such items is an important issue because the noise can affect other devices. If normal operation is disturbed by electromagnetic noise, devices may be unable to execute the expected functions. And if an autonomous driving system were affected, safety could be compromised with potentially dire consequences. Not only electromagnetic noise originating inside an automobile but also electromagnetic waves from external sources can affect devices, causing failure to perform as expected.

For conducting noise tests on automobiles in motion in house, Sumitomo Wiring Systems constructed a test facility, comprising an anechoic chamber (a space designed to be completely isolated from electromagnetic waves from external sources and to prevent leakage of any electromagnetic waves from within the facility) and all necessary apparatus, on the same site as Suzuka Plant in Mie Prefecture. The test facility started operation in October 2016. Chassis dynamometers (a system with rollers to simulate the conditions to which a vehicle is subjected on a real road) installed in the floor of the test facility simulate driving conditions of a vehicle, enabling evaluation of electromagnetic noise from various devices under conditions emulating actual driving conditions on roads.

This test facility is used to refine ideas for new products needed for future vehicles.

In tests, as well as measuring electromagnetic noise generated by the company’s products, the impacts on the products of electromagnetic waves from external sources are evaluated. Various electromagnetic waves, ranging from low-frequency waves, such as from AM radio, to high-frequency waves, such as those produced by mobile phones, are irradiated on products under test.

Testing while a vehicle is in motion can clarify interference with other electronic devices and components, which cannot be done by testing each product alone. Whereas such tests are conducted at similar facilities of automotive manufacturers, in-house evaluation from the development phase enables Sumitomo Wiring Systems to create safer, securer products. Another advantage is that Sumitomo Wiring Systems can proactively propose new products to automotive manufacturers that are amply supported by test data.

Increasingly, automotive manufacturers are adopting proposals that were refined based on evaluations conducted at this test facility. Sumitomo Wiring Systems is transforming evaluations at the test facility into unique added value while accelerating development. Through these initiatives, Sumitomo Wiring Systems intends to contribute to realization of a society in which people enjoy the advantages of mobility with enhanced safety and security, greater comfort, and outstanding environmental performance.

Sumitomo Riko Co., Ltd.

Monitoring drivers’ vital signs and drowsiness to achieve safe mobility

Traffic accidents can destroy people’s lives in an instant. Besides falling asleep at the wheel, factors related to the drivers’ health, such as poor physical condition, sudden onset of illness, and exhaustion attributable to overwork, are implications of the growing proportion of traffic accidents. Sumitomo Riko is developing a driver monitoring system (DMS) that employs sensors, for which its proprietary flexible and conductive rubber material is applied, to detect the driver’s health condition and drowsiness.

The DMS capitalizes on the attributes of Sumitomo Riko’s proprietary Smart Rubber (SR) Sensor that is built into a cushion placed on the driver’s seat. The sensor detects the pressure distribution and its change and vibration from bones in the buttocks and estimates the pulse rate, respiration rate, and shift in center of gravity based on a unique algorithm. The results are transmitted to the cloud for use in various services, such as issuing of alerts and implementing measures to keep the driver awake. Conventional conductive rubber is generally hard and conductive paths tend to break when it is stretched. By adopting elastomer that is soft and conductive, Sumitomo Riko developed SR with the ability to withstand repeated stretching and compression which means that conductive paths are maintained. Having confirmed that SR can be utilized for sensor electrodes, Sumitomo Riko tackled development of applications for safe driving. For measurement of vital signs, subjects typically have to wear cumbersome sensor devices and are reluctant to do so. As the SR Sensor is soft and causes no discomfort, the driver simply needs to be seated on the DMS for vital sign measurement.

Left: The DMS cushion incorporating the SR Sensor that is to be placed on the driver’s seat. Right: The DMS cushion placed on the driver’s seat. The driver experiences no discomfort because the sensor is soft.

As of 2020, Sumitomo Riko has completed the basic technical elements of the DMS and is working on design and development for mass production. Meanwhile, the company is conducting performance verification tests for obtaining accurate data by separating vital signs from vehicle vibrations and noise during driving and is evaluating the test results. Currently, although the pulse rate can be measured with relatively high accuracy when driving on expressways where vehicle vibration is slight, measurement accuracy deteriorates on roads with uneven surfaces because the SR Sensor picks up extraneous vibrations. Sumitomo Riko is working on further improvements to the DMS, based on the findings.

Vital signs and other data can be checked on smartphones and other devices, as necessary.

As technological development of the DMS is in sight, Sumitomo Riko has proceeded to the next phase and is collaborating with other companies to identify promising practical applications that will contribute to safety of mobility. Possible applications based on analysis of data in the cloud include issuing alerts, trying to wake up the driver by adjusting the seat position, and notifying the employer in the case of a driver of a commercial vehicle, when driver drowsiness and fatigue are detected, and playing soothing music when driver irritation is detected. Going forward, other possible uses of the DMS include provision of data for advanced driver assistance systems and mapping of hot spots where many drivers become drowsy.

The DMS will contribute to the SDGs through improvement of traffic safety, reduction of loss of life and injury attributable to traffic accidents, and development of robust infrastructure. Sumitomo Riko intends to introduce DMS applications in 2021 and is further enhancing data measurement performance so as to contribute to safety of mobility.

Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service Co., Ltd.

Helping prevent traffic accidents by offering training for senior drivers

Traffic accidents caused by senior drivers or attributable to tailgating have emerged as social issues in Japan, and efforts to reduce the number of traffic accidents has become a major theme nationwide. Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service (SMAS) offers corporate customers of its car leasing services the Advanced Driving Skill & Technique (ADST®) training program in cooperation with driving schools across the country.

Apart from professional drivers, such as taxi drivers, millions of people drive to work each day. In response to corporate customers’ desires to prevent traffic accidents and to implement recurrence-prevention measures targeting employees who caused accidents, SMAS launched ADST training in 2007. In this program offered at SMAS’s partner driving schools, trainees receive education designed to enhance their safety awareness in addition to driving skill training using actual vehicles. ADST training can make corporate customers’ efforts to reduce the incidence of traffic accidents much more effective.

The ADST training program consists of seven courses such as a course for new employees, one for employees who were involved in traffic accidents, and another for managers providing driving instruction while sitting in the passenger’s seat. The number of ADST trainees has been trending upward and is currently around 10,000 to 12,000 a year. Among the courses, the one focused on prevention of traffic accidents involving senior drivers is attracting especially high interest.

Launched in 2017, this course for veteran drivers is designed for people in their late 50s or older. Senior drivers tend to be unaware of the extent to which their reaction times, dynamic visual acuity, and other physical capabilities have deteriorated. For these drivers it is often the case that there are no particular problems concerning their actual driving skills, but deterioration of their physical abilities increases the risk of accidents. Unlike other courses, the one for veteran drivers starts by getting the drivers themselves to recognize their deterioration. For this purpose, at first, trainees are tested for dynamic visual acuity and physical capabilities, such as reaction times, by using a simulator and they are given the test results.

At first, a test of dynamic visual acuity and a driving test using a simulator are conducted to measure trainees’ physical capabilities. Visualization of the test results helps drivers recognize that the deterioration in their capabilities is greater than they had assumed, thus challenging their complacency.
Driving aptitude test sheet. Basic capabilities for driving, including reaction times, are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. Explanations are provided for each item.

Then, the trainees get behind the wheel of a car and the instructor points out any problems with their driving as they drive around a course, such as bad habits that have become ingrained over the years. The ultimate objective is to thoroughly overhaul the basics of safe driving. Typically, people who participate in the course for veteran drivers concede that they now recognize a deterioration in their capabilities of which they had previously been unaware.

Among ADST training courses, the one for new employees is in greatest demand because companies prioritize training of employees with little driving experience. On the other hand, the number of participants in the course for veteran drivers is not increasing markedly because such drivers tend to have few problems with their driving skills. However, there is an evident need in society to challenge complacency by raising the awareness of senior drivers whose physical capabilities are deteriorating without them realizing.

There is widespread recognition that traffic accidents resulting in loss of life and injury are a blight on society. Thus, SMAS’s initiatives that benefit society by helping eradicate such tragic accidents are a focus of high expectations.