Tuam factory Valeo gears up for car camera production boom – Connacht Tribune – Galway City Tribune:

2022-05-10 09:04:07 By : Mr. Caesar Liu

A Tuam company – synonymous with cameras vehicle reversing and surround cameras – plans to more than double production to create 20 million cameras a year.

Valeo Vision Systems this week celebrated its 100 millionth ‘automotive nearfield camera’ – which give rear and bird’s eye vision for drivers – rolling off the production line.

Announcing the milestone, Marc Vrecko, President of Valeo’s Comfort and Driving Assistance Systems Business Group, had some good news for the plant based at the Industrial Development Agency Business Park on the Dunmore Road.

“Things are about to move up another gear. We now plan to produce more than 20 million cameras a year and globally deliver as many units to our automaker customers in the next four years as we did in the last 15, meaning another 100 million cameras by 2026,” he told the Connacht Tribune.

It is a remarkable achievement for the company, which set up as Connaught Electronics Ltd in 1982 with a handful of employees. There are now 850 employees, nearly 70 per cent of them engineers with coding expertise.

Its reputation for the development and manufacture of electronic components mainly in the field of camera applications for driver assistance and radio frequency applications for remote vehicle access and security caught the attention of the French multinational Valeo which bought it in 2007.

Listed on the Paris stock exchange, the Valeo group employs 113,600 people in 33 countries worldwide. It has 186 production plants, 59 Research and Development (R&D) centres and 15 distribution platforms.

“When Valeo acquired this start-up, this was one of the promises made to the founders: to say this business has been Irish and will remain very, very strongly in Ireland and over the years we’ve been more than blessed by the enthusiasm, the passion and dedication of the team here.

“It’s been a fantastic and very rare success. We feel so happy to be here.”

From its Tuam plant, Valeo was the first to market in Europe with the reversing camera. Last year an unnamed car manufacturer released its ‘bird’s eye’ or 360-degree camera boasting image fusion technology, which creates a single snapshot from multiple video sources. It feels as if the driver is being assisted by a drone above the car.

The company’s R&D unit in Galway developed the nifty feature already in some high-end cars that allows drivers to automatically manoeuvre their car into a parking space. It was behind a wide-angle camera that can generate cross-traffic alerts, improve views at junctions and help drivers to detect pedestrians and assist motorists towing trailers.

“Every single advanced feature and function and technology has been developed and engineered in this place so it’s really a very, very important place for Valeo,” remarked Mr Vrecko.

“In Tuam we have a global R&D centre for advanced cameras, so it’s where we’re piloting, steering most of our projects. Every new camera and every generation of camera is first primarily developed and manufactured in this plant. Tuam is the mother plant, it’s going to groom the new technologies.”

In 2019 the company announced an investment of €44m in the R&D programme to build on its capability in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which will be pivotal to autonomous or self-driving vehicles.

Products developed by the Tuam R&D centre are also in production at Valeo sites in Germany, Hungary, Mexico and China.

The first camera rolled off the Irish production lines in 2002. Eight years later, one million units were delivered to customers. In 2013, the ten-millionth camera threshold was hit, and in 2015, the figure doubled to 20 million. Between 2015 and 2018, output increased 30-fold compared with the first eight years, with 30 million cameras manufactured in three years, for a total of 50 million. The four years between 2018 and 2022 saw total production double and cross the 100 million camera mark. Mr Vrecko explains that this huge ramping up in production is down to the mass production of high-tech systems, a revolution in safety and comfort and artificial intelligence algorithms, allowing Valeo to create through-the-body vision, autonomous parking and driving features.

Valeo now equips one in three new cars globally with its technology and number one in the world in advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) that use sensor technologies like radar and lidar to detect objects.

The French manager believes that 90 per cent of cars will have some form of driving assistance by 2030.

“Of course, we aim to bring that technology to the masses. We are enthusiastic about the possibilities, to make sure it’s affordable and in use for everyone. Our aim is to have more and more users.”

Finding and retaining staff to continue that expansion will be crucial to Tuam’s continued success, he agrees. The plant already boasts 35 nationalities.

“It’s very hard to find talent in the technology space. It’s very competitive. It is a tough fight to get the best people in the high-tech space. You need to provide the best and most exciting opportunities. But we have a super exciting product. There is a true sense of fulfillment when you see products on actual cars.

“We have a real community life here. We have a way of bringing together all the people. In the last ten years I’ve been here every six months so I know it pretty well and the Tuam team are very rooted here. They are very happy.  It’s unique for a multinational.”

(hotograph by Aengus McMahon: Mary Buckley, Executive Director, IDA Ireland with Christophe Périllat, Chief Executive Officer of Valeo pictured at the company’s Tuam site as their 100 millionth camera came off the production line).

New strategy to revive urban Gaeltacht area

Galway PhD student offers expertise to those carrying mutant BRCA cancer gene

Kildare-man Lester Cassidy is taking on the challenge of a lifetime by climbing Croagh Patrick in ­a wheelchair to raise funds for both the National Rehabilitation Hospital for Adults and Children (NRH) and Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII). On June 25th of this year, Lester (43) will take on the mammoth task with a little help from his family and friends.

In July 1998, Lester was tragically left paralysed from a workplace accident at only 19 years of age. The Kilcock native was working as an apprentice carpenter on the roof of a house in Leixlip at the time: “The scaffolding gave way under my feet and I fell about 24ft. I’ll never forget the sound of my back breaking. I knew I was in serious trouble,” he said.

The next day, surrounded by his devastated family and his then girlfriend Rachel, now his wife, a doctor said he had suffered irreparable damage to his spinal cord. After a few weeks in hospital, Lester was transferred to the NRH in Dún Laoghaire.

“The staff do the most amazing job to get the patient back to being as independent and healthy as possible. They are inspirational. SII also made a massive impact on my life as I was able to learn how to drive under their driving programme. Shortly after my release, Rachel and I went travelling the world. Then we settled down, built a house, and got married.”

In 2008, the Cassidys welcomed twins Samuel and Anna Rose (13), and then, seven years ago, Isabelle came along.

“I’m a stay-at-home dad, and I love it. It’s the most rewarding job in the world. My kids are everything to me”

Last year, the Cassidys were met with more bad news when a tumour was discovered on Lester’s brain. Thankfully, Lester’s subsequent brain surgery was a success and he has since become even more emboldened to complete his Croagh Patrick challenge. Lester’s message is simple – life is precious, and even an immeasurable tragedy can be overcome.

“I had originally planned to do this challenge in 2020 but between COVID and my tumour surgery recovery I’ve had to postpone it until now. I won’t be defeated and I will complete this challenge,” he said.

To scale Croagh Patrick, a special buggy has been designed that will be pushed by teams of supporters working in shifts. If your audience wishes to donate to Lester’s appeal, details can be found at www.idonate.ie/LesterCassidy

A Galway PhD student whose mother died from cancer discovered she was carrying the same mutant BRCA gene herself – and she has now turned her own experience and expertise into her life’s work.

Niki Warner, originally from Roscommon but a long-time Galway resident who is undertaking her doctorate at NUIG, was announced as the latest peer-to-peer supporter – helping others who carry the same gene – at the sixth Marie Keating Foundation BRCA conference last week.

Those discovered to carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer compared with someone who doesn’t have the mutation – although carrying it doesn’t mean you’re certain to develop cancer.

Niki, who has a BRCA gene alteration, says that her BRCA story began 14 years ago, and – as she says – it won’t end any time soon.

But she says: “I take pride in my research and knowing that I am available through the Marie Keating to young women going through a BRCA 1/2 mutation diagnosis, or to any parent/family members that are worried about how a BRCA mutation may affect their younger relatives.”

“I have a vague memory of my mother mentioning that she carried a genetic mutation that had something to do with her predisposition to cancer,” she says.

“It never fully registered, given the emotionality around her terminal illness, that it might ever be something I had to think about. However, my father encouraged me to consider genetic testing.

“When I looked into it, I didn’t have to think twice and went for the blood test in 2017 in St. James’ Hospital. A few months later I found out that I carried a BRCA 1 mutation, the same as my mother,” she adds.

Despite that, she says that in some regard, she is very early on into her BRCA mutation ‘journey’. “I am currently in the second year of my PhD in the School of Psychology in NUI Galway, researching the psychological aspects of being diagnosed as a BRCA 1/2 mutation carrier in Ireland,” she explains.

“I am well aware that down the line, I will have to undergo prophylactic surgeries and the physical and emotional difficulties around these.

“However, for now, I am grateful for my position of being informed, from my mother, my research and from the support I have received from the Marie Keating Foundation. This in itself was my motive for becoming a peer support volunteer.

“Given my slightly odd dynamic in my family with regard to BRCA – I am the only known carrier – at times it can be hard to find someone to relate (or vent) to, and as such I am indebted to the six amazing women on the Marie Keating Peer to Peer support team,” she adds.

More than 120 men and women affected by the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene attended the sixth annual Marie Keating Foundation BRCA conference in Dublin last Friday, at a time of uncertainty with delays in accessing genetic testing and reconstructive surgery reported.

That’s down to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – on top of many years of under-funding – to leave long waiting times for essential services such as genetic testing, reconstructive surgery and cancer surveillance services, all of which are becoming a regular occurrence in the public system, with some people waiting between two to four years for an initial referral.

“Testing positive for a BRCA gene alteration not only impacts those tested, but also their families and wider circle,” the Foundation’s Director of Nursing Services Helen Forristal told the conference.

“As a genetically inherited alteration, passed down through family lines, a BRCA gene significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer in their lifetime.

“To have this information, and then to be told you could be waiting up to and beyond two years to be seen or even tested for the alteration leads to undue anxiety, emotional distress and uncertainty for this already vulnerable community,” she added.

Niki Warner herself admits that there is often a debate about when is the best time for someone to get tested for a BRCA 1/2 mutation.

“I, myself, at no point have regretted my decision to go for the test,” she says.

“I feel in a place of great privilege, whereby I have firstly my mother to thank, for getting the wheel rolling on finding out about the hereditary risk in our family.

“She was honest, told me the truth, and asserted no pressure over me to get tested, allowing me the space to process the information.

“Later on, my father supported me greatly in my choice to get the test, accompanying me to the appointments and letting me rant and rave as needed throughout.

“I don’t think any parent could do anything more than to allow their children the opportunity and support in making their own, well-informed decisions regarding their options,” she added.

Due to demand for support and information created after their 2020 BRCA Conference, the Marie Keating Foundation created their first online support group for those affected by a BRCA gene alteration.

Available free of charge to members across Ireland, this community beginning with just nine members has grown by more than 700% in the last two years.

The Marie Keating Foundation itself was set up 24 years ago, following Marie’s death from breast cancer in 1998.

After losing their mother, the Keating family promised that they would do everything they could to ensure men and women in every community in Ireland had access to the necessary information to prevent cancer or detect it at its earliest stages.

The Marie Keating Foundation supports families across Ireland at every step of their cancer journey.

(Photo: Dr Eithne Lowe, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine (centre) is pictured with women affected by the BRCA gene alteration, Jean O’Neill from Kilkenny (left) and Niki Warner from Galway at the Marie Keating Foundation sixth annual BRCA Conference).

The number of applications flooding into Galway County Council to fund works on privately-owned roads would take more than a decade to process – even if the local authority had the money to pay.

But the reality is that the Council has just 12% of the funding required to deal with the volume of applications for Local Improvement Schemes (LIS) – and more applications are arriving by the week.

A meeting of Galway County Council heard that the local authority has an allocation of almost €960,000 which would complete around 24 schemes – a fraction of the current 165 applications.

The LIS provides funding to help local authorities carry out improvement works on private and non-publicly maintained roads and lanes that are not normally looked after by local authorities.

Director of Services, Derek Pender, said that the allocation received from central government will not accommodate the volume of applications; it would require around €8 million to deal with the submissions already made.

He said this was the first allocation for some time and the Council would be applying for further funding while, at the same time, he stressed the number of applications that had been received under the scheme.

According to Cllr Michael Connolly (FF) it will take ten to twelve years to clear the current backlog based on that level of funding.

“I know it may seem futile, but we cannot stop taking applications for funding under the scheme despite the fact that we are grossly underfunded,” he said.

“I have seen some of the roads that are the subject of applications, and they are in dire straits. The verges need trimming, and the surfaces are in a terrible condition.

“It is like a firefighting situation. Even if the money comes for a scheme, it is only patchwork and will need to be addressed in another couple of years again. They really need to be taken in charge by the Council,” Cllr Connolly said.

Headford’s Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said that there was a huge waiting list for funding and it was often the case that applications were being resubmitted having failed to get approval from an earlier effort.

“Given the volume of applications, we have to see if there is any more money available. Some of the applicants that I am aware of are in a desperate situation in that the roads are impassable,” he said as he proposed that an application for further funding be submitted.

Roads covered by the scheme could include access points to homes and farms, as well as public amenities including lakes, rivers or beaches, piers, heritage sites or graveyards.

Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) said that she knew of applicants that have been told that any LIS scheme would be four and five years away.

She added that it was important to address the schemes that can be but said that the biggest problem was the waiting list.

Mr Pender pointed out that qualification for an LIS scheme did not mean that the Council would be taking in charge a road, as it did not have the resources to do this.

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