SafelyThere Stories

#SafelyThere Stories

As part of our campaign, we are collecting safety awareness stories. We hope that these personal narratives inspire you to share a time when automotive technology potentially saved your life, or the life of someone you love; or simply help you gain a better understanding of the technology's many benefits.

Using Education to Help Save Lives

Jeff Skvarce, Crash and Regulatory Research Manager, spends most of his time paying close attention to trends, policies and research that impact vehicle safety. 

“My job is to follow trends and apply research to topics like intersections, head on-collisions, pedestrian crashes and more to support project teams working on mobility solutions,” Jeff explained. “To bolster the efforts of getting safety technologies into more vehicles, I also help educate lawmakers and regulators about potentially lifesaving vehicle technologies by engaging in research with universities, and supporting various conferences and safety groups. I then digest this information and ensure my Continental colleagues are informed on what I learn.”

Shortly after joining Continental in 1992, Jeff began working on brake systems and supported the rollout of electronic stability control (ESC). As Jeff worked on ESC, he really came to understand its lifesaving potential. In fact, a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) shows that the risk of a fatal passenger-vehicle rollover is reduced by 72 percent with the addition of ESC.

In parallel, Jeff began to understand the influence Continental and other companies in the automotive safety industry could have on government regulations of safety technology through education.

“I began working with the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) to provide test and simulation data to educate regulators on the benefits of ESC, and support development of an ESC Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard,” Jeff recalled. “We also educated safety advocate groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports on the benefits of ESC technology.”

From Education to Impact

Continental, convinced of the lifesaving potential of ESC, launched consumer education campaigns, largescale advertisements and even a traveling ESC educational roadshow to bring awareness to the technology and help people understand how it works. As of 2012, ESC is mandatory on all new vehicles – likely saving countless lives. Something that motivates Jeff each and every day. 

“My uncle was killed as a teenager following a road departure before I met him, my niece was seriously injured riding a tri-cycle in her neighborhood and I witnessed the aftermath of a highway crash where a parent was holding their kid on the highway amongst the wreckage,” Jeff remembered. 

All of these crashes may have been avoided with the technology available today – technology we are working on at Continental.

Jeff’s research helps to identify specific crash types, like those that take place around intersections or those caused by wrong-way drivers, which helps engineers working on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) determine if new solutions can be developed. He often thinks of his personal experiences when he is researching trends and is motivated to work with colleagues to engineer technologies that can help prevent or mitigate crashes.

“It's interesting that our government intentionally avoids using the word ‘accident’ to describe a vehicle collision because ‘accidents,’ by definition, are not avoidable. Instead they, identify ALL of them as ‘crashes’ that are avoidable with the right education and ADAS technology,” Jeff said.

The ADAS technologies that Jeff’s research helps to shape continue to become more widely available to car buyers.

“ADAS functions are ready and available today on most vehicles,” Jeff said. “As these ADAS features get into more vehicles, the general driving public will become more aware of these building-block technologies and their lifesaving potential. We believe that widespread adoption of these features will help us inch closer to Vison Zero: zero traffic fatalities, injuries and, ultimately, crashes.”

Safer Roads Today

June is National Safety Month and, to celebrate, we’re collecting unique perspectives from colleagues working on advanced safety technology, ranging from insights on important progress to why they show up to work every single day. Stay tuned each week for a fresh viewpoint.  


When Vincey Chui first got interested in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), she  initially wanted to work on research and development for fully autonomous driving. But when she joined Continental’s ADAS team, she wound up taking a different path.


“When I interviewed to join the Continental ADAS team, the interviewer explained that I would be working on driver assistance technologies that would go to market within 2-3 years instead of working on technology for high levels of autonomous driving which would take longer to develop,” Vincey remembered. 

I thought it would still be exciting to work on cutting edge technology that would reach consumers sooner rather than later – and I was right.

Today, Vincey is a Safety Functions Group Leader and works on short-range radar and safety function algorithms. These algorithms are part of a vehicle’s software, and are a set of calculations that use radar sensor data as inputs to give outputs to the driver, such as visual LED warnings on the side mirrors when someone is driving in their blind spot zone. These algorithms and technologies Vincey work on enable ADAS safety functions like automatic emergency braking, trailer merge warning, rear cross traffic braking and others.


While ADAS technologies can help improve driver safety, they are not considered fully autonomous driving technologies.


“At this point, the safety functions I work on and other ADAS features are not meant to be a substitute for engaged drivers – they still need to be paying full attention,” Vincey explained. “Even so, many advanced safety features currently available to drivers have the potential to make a huge impact on improving road safety.”


A study from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shows that a combination of forward collision warning, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control reduced bodily injury insurance claims by a remarkable 37 percent. All of these ADAS technologies are currently available on vehicles.


“I’m inspired by the additional safety that my team’s safety functions can bring to drivers. We work hard to understand how to improve our existing algorithms, which results in better products for consumers. If our algorithms detect an emergency braking situation, the software can send a brake request to the vehicle system, ” Vincey said. “I am excited to be working toward a future where ADAS technologies are more accessible and affordable to car buyers to help reduce vehicle crash-related injuries.”

Motivated to Make a Difference

June is National Safety Month and, to celebrate, we’re collecting unique perspectives from colleagues working on advanced safety technology, ranging from insights on important progress to why they show up to work every single day. Stay tuned each week for a fresh viewpoint.


Aranza Hinojosa, Lead Systems Engineer within Continental North America’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) group, has been with Continental for all of her professional life.


“I started with Continental fresh out of University,” Aranza remembered. “My last class was on a Saturday and two days later was my first day at Continental. Almost five years later, and I’m still here.”


Currently Aranza works on a two different systems that enable safety functions like Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping Assistance[SC(3]  and Adaptive Cruise Control. According to a study by AAA, if installed on all vehicles currently on the road, some of these available technologies could prevent approximately 40 percent of all passenger-vehicle crashes and 29 percent of all resulting fatalities. It is this promise of increased safety that convinced Aranza to stick with automotive engineering.


“My background is biomedical engineering. Honestly, automotive was not on my radar, and I did not know a lot about what I am doing today,” Aranza shared. “However, every day at work I was learning about the driver assistance and automated driving functions that Continental develops, and how these make a difference in reducing injuries and fatality rates." 

It was the safety impact of these functions, the technical challenges that these functions represent, as well as the significant possibility for innovation that got me interested in this field.

Aranza has to ensure the technologies she works on will function in the real world as designed. To account for driving scenarios in different geographic regions and traffic scenarios, vast amounts of data are needed to ensure these advanced safety systems function as intended across different environments and use cases.


“The amount of data collected to train algorithms and validate our systems reaches terabytes in no time,” Aranza explained. “For this, cutting-edge computing equipment is needed, as well as synthetic data from virtual simulations – think about that next time you experience a vehicle perform a safety function!”  


In addition to helping keep roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike, she is also motivated to help ensure mobility is accessible and designed for all people, as well as extending the safety benefits of the vehicle to its urban surroundings.


“My vision for the future is to have an inclusive mobility network that allows people with disabilities to live a more independent life, being able to move around their cities without hassle. I would also like to see smart cities where drivers and passengers are safe while in motion, while waiting for public transportation or walking around an urban area.”

A Good First Step

June is National Safety Month and, to celebrate, we’re collecting unique perspectives from colleagues working on advanced safety technology, ranging from insights on important progress to why they show up to work every single day. Stay tuned each week for a fresh viewpoint.


Continental has been pursuing the long-term strategy of Vision Zero for years, innovating solutions that contribute to greater road safety. In an effort to raise awareness about the life-saving potential of automotive safety technologies, the #SafelyThere campaign was launched.


A key goal of the #SafelyThere campaign is to help consumers understand advanced safety technologies – like lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking – found on vehicles today. Amit Kapoor, head of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) for Continental North America, firmly believes that achieving Vision Zero starts with consumer education.


"Understanding the limitations of ADAS features is just as important as understanding what they are designed to support," Kapoor explained. "Based on numerous studies, we know that consumer confidence in ADAS and automated technologies is low. In order to achieve Vision Zero, we need consumer acceptance of and confidence in ADAS technologies, and that starts with ensuring consumers understand the scope of these functions."


Automakers use varied terminology to describe ADAS, which can make it challenging for people trying to understand the safety features on their vehicle. To help consumers better understand these features, SAE International, along with several other organizations, recently introduced common naming and descriptions of key ADAS technologies available on the road today. The effort, "Clearing the Confusion," is designed to help eliminate confusion and ensure that drivers are aware that these systems are designed to assist, not replace, an engaged driver.


Ensuring that we all speak the same safety language is a good first step toward helping us achieve our goal of Vision Zero."

"The next step should be to commonize the deployment of these systems and functions so that the driver's experience is similar, regardless of vehicle make and model," Kapoor added.


When it comes to progress in safety, Continental uses a building-block approach. This also shapes the company's pathway to automated driving – building one advanced driver assistance technology on top of another; a true evolutionary process. Similarly, the "Clearing the Confusion" effort is an essential building block in creating consumer trust and ensuring these safety technologies can effectively support safer roadways.

Click here to see the "Clearing the Confusion" the common naming outline.

An (Almost) Spoiled Joyride 

© Continental AG
Travis Smith is a Senior Simulation Engineer, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is his #SafelyThere story. 

What started as a normal spring afternoon could have ended much worse. As I backed out of my driveway to run an errand, I was surprised when my vehicle began to beep and abruptly stopped. My heart raced as I realized what had happened – I was looking one way and a neighborhood kid had sped across my driveway on his bike from the other direction.  

I am grateful that my automatic emergency braking (AEB) kicked in just a second earlier than my own reaction – that one second could have changed everything. 

The boy was able to continue his joyride, and hopefully he will be more aware the next time he is crossing a vehicle’s path.  

Living in a suburban neighborhood, I am used to children playing outside in warm weather and I strive to remain aware of my surroundings. However, despite our best intentions, our awareness can be flawed. This experience reinforced my belief that advanced driver assistance systems do not replace the driver, but instead they assist when our own reflexes are not quick enough. 

According to IIHS, backover crashes account for approximately 15,000 injuries annually – meaning that stories like mine are very common. I am grateful that my vehicle has a backup camera and AEB, because I know that without it my near-crash would have contributed to this statistic.  

An Unlucky Cloverleaf 

​​​

© Continental AG
Rahul Gujar is a Software Engineer for Corporate Quality and Environment, North America, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is his #SafelyThere story. 

I was driving home from work on a hot August day, and I began to merge from one highway to another during peak traffic. The M-59 and I-75 interchange in Michigan is notoriously busy during rush hour – the cloverleaf design is intended to alleviate congestion, but it can also be difficult to navigate. 

As I turned my blinker on and began to merge right, my blind spot detection system began to beep. I was confident that I hadn’t seen a car in the lane next to me, but due to the alert I looked again. A car was coming quickly from behind and was extremely close to my vehicle. The alert gave me just enough time to slow my car nearly to a stop, letting the other car continue to merge onto I-75.  

If installed on all vehicles, blind spot warning technology could potentially prevent 318,000 crashes a year, according to the AAA Foundation. I experienced a close call, but the warning gave me the moment I needed to react before a crash occurred. 

Bear-ly Stopped

​​​

© Continental AG
Arnie Levitan works for Supplier Quality Management, Cluster Electronics, North America, based in Deer Park, Illinois. This is his #SafelyThere story. 

A few years back, my family and I took a quick trip to see a Bears game and as we were driving home, a sudden hard rain began. The car in front of us began to drift into another lane – where a semi-truck was also pressing through the weather. 

Their light collision triggered a jack knife reaction from the truck’s trailer. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I began to hit my brakes and, with the assistance of anti-lock braking, I was able to make a smooth stop on the shoulder. The vehicle behind me pulled over as well, unfortunately landing in the ditch to avoid another collision. 

After stopping safely, I was able to call 911 and check on the victims of the crash. We helped to direct traffic until the emergency responders arrived and took over. I am overwhelmingly grateful for my anti-lock braking system and proud that the company I work for helped to develop this technology.  

According to NHTSA, in 2017 there were 4,761 people killed in crashes involving large trucks – a 9% increase from 2016.  In fair conditions, fully loaded trucks can take over 500 feet to come to a complete stop. This experience enforced the importance of keeping a safe following distance when behind trucks, especially in bad weather. And, when the unexpected happens, I’m grateful for the vehicle technologies  that keep me – and those around me – safe on the road.  

Beep, Beep, Don’t Fall Asleep!

© Continental AG

Renu Aggarwal is a Product Development Chemist for ContiTech, based in Winchester, Virginia. This is her #SafelyThere story. 

My long-time friend and I were driving to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a much-needed weekend of fun. After a long day in the car, it started to get dark outside and I could tell that something was different in the way my friend was driving. We started to weave, ever so slightly, in our lane. The lane departure warning would alert us every few minutes and I carefully offered to drive. My friend did not want to switch drivers. 

She suffers from sleep apnea, which inhibits her from sleeping soundly through the night. This condition puts her more at risk for falling asleep in other situations, like at work or behind the wheel. It is hard to tell somebody to pull over and even more difficult because she did not realize that her medical condition was impairing her driving.  

When the alert started going off more frequently, she finally decided it was time to pull over and switch. A few hours later, we arrived #SafelyThere. It was an amazing trip, eating local food and visiting the Speedwell Wolves sanctuary.  

I think most of us believe that our driving is safe, even when we are overtired or distracted. It is a difficult choice to pull over and take a nap, switch drivers, or respond to a text when the vehicle is no longer in motion. According to NHTSA, every year there are 100,000 crashes due to drowsy driving. I am grateful for the technologies that can alert drivers to risky behavior, but I will also do my part to choose not to get behind the wheel when I’m feeling anything less than attentive. 

Biscuit's Close Call

​​​​​​​

© Continental AG
Kimberley Niec is an Executive Assistant for Continental Engineering Services, North America, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is her #SafelyThere story.  

My husband and I were visiting our friends in Austin, Texas and, as we were on our way to get lunch one day, my friend and I noticed a little white cockapoo running loose through the neighborhood. We could see that he was wearing a collar with tags, so he likely had a home nearby. We pulled our car over and jumped out to try to catch him. 

When we started to chase the dog, he thought that we were playing and ran off in a different direction. I was bent over chasing the dog across a driveway as a vehicle was backing out of the garage. The driver had no visibility of me or the dog, but thankfully, the vehicle had a backup camera and warning which alerted the driver to hit the brakes.  

According to an IIHS study, it can be expected that backup cameras can prevent nearly 1 in 6 backing crashes and we witnessed this statistic in action. The driver was very grateful that we were safe and happy to help assist with the catch. We finally got hold of the dog, who we learned was named Biscuit, and returned him to his home. After all the excitement of the chase, I’m glad to report that we reached a happy ending – thanks to advanced driver assistance technology! 

Drowsy Driving Deterred 

​​​

© Continental AG
Daniel Mann is a Lead Assembly Setter for the Hydraulic Brake Systems business unit, North America, based in Fletcher, North Carolina. This is his #SafelyThere story.

My fiancée was driving home after a long day at work and she was struggling to keep her eyes open. She only works 15 minutes from home, so she tried to tough it out.

She nodded off and her lane departure warning system alerted her that she was entering the opposite lane as a vehicle approached. She started to react, but not fast enough – so the lane keeping assist system stepped in and made the correction for her. Shaken by the experience, she pulled over and took a few minutes to rest before starting back home.

Since then, we both take drowsy driving much more seriously. According to NHTSA, there are nearly 100,000 drowsy driving crashes reported in the U.S. every year. We do not want to be part of that statistic and we know now to take the time to rest before getting on the road. Additionally, this experience opened our eyes to the benefits of advanced driver assistance systems – moving forward, these features that act as a second set of eyes are a must-have for our cars.

From "Silver Bullet" to Safety

© Continental AG

Ally Brown is a Senior Employer Branding Specialist, U.S. and Canada, based in the Fort Mill, SC office. This is her #SafelyThere testimonial.​​​​​​​

In 2012, I went to trade in my 10-year-old vehicle - nicknamed "the silver bullet" for all my speeding tickets - and I was told by one dealership "that thing belongs in a junk yard." He made a fair point, years of city driving in Washington, D.C. took a beating on my car. The front bumper was falling off, the whole side was scratched and scuffed with yellow paint from hitting a column in a parking garage, and the interior smelled like a box of crayons.

Less than a year driving in my new grown-up car, I was on the beltway in someone's blind spot and was hit by a vehicle without Blind Spot Detection. My car flew across four lanes and into the shoulder. Everything happened so quickly, but luckily, I survived. Afterwards I was terrified to drive, especially when in another car’s blind spot.

Several years later, after moving to the suburbs and starting a family, I now spend more time driving and safety is even more important to me – my speeding days are long gone. When purchasing our family car, we opted for the special edition with all the safety features.

My Blind Spot Detection system and backup camera have helped me significantly, not only helping me to stay out of the body shop but also helping me to feel safer knowing that I have an extra set of eyes looking out for me and my family. I also feel a sense of relief when Blind Spot Detection is activated on other vehicles, knowing that this could have helped to prevent my car accident.

While my reputation as a driver is not squeaky clean, the automated safety features on my new vehicle have given me the confidence I need as I drive our young kids. I’m proud to say I haven’t made a single scratch on my car since that accident and I am grateful that I haven’t been hit again.

Stability Control Meets Snow-Covered Roads

© Continental AG
Vince Mastrangelo is head of Corporate Quality and Environment, North America, based in Auburn Hills, MI. This is his #SafelyThere story.

I started at Continental in 1999 in Finance working on the pricing strategies of the first Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Roll Stability Control (RSC) programs in North America. A few years later, my brother and his family moved to Oregon, and he asked for my opinion about which vehicle he should buy for the Pacific Northwest winters. Given my knowledge of various safety technologies, I recommended to him the sport utility vehicles that were equipped with ESC and RSC at the time. This was a pretty short list in 2003! Keep in mind that ESC has been mandatory in new cars in the United States only since the 2012 model year.

We quickly came to realize that this was the right decision. When my family later visited Oregon to celebrate New Year’s Eve, my wife and sister-in-law avoided a potentially severe accident thanks to ESC technology. They hit a patch of ice while driving down a snow-covered mountain road and felt the vehicle start to fishtail. While the car could have slipped into oncoming traffic or spun into a ditch, the ESC system kicked in and almost immediately put the vehicle back on course.

This experience changed both of our families' perspective of what we look for in a vehicle; we are now early adopters of new safety technology.

It is impressive to see the evolution of such technology since the implementation of ESC nearly two decades ago. I am sure this trend will continue as older cars are taken out of service and replaced with newer ones. It will accelerate even faster as drivers become more familiar with available technologies and their potential to reduce accidents and help save lives.

After Vince experienced firsthand the capabilities of ESC, he wanted to help promote the benefits of the technology. Together with his family, Continental created a testimonial video in 2004. This generated a lot of press coverage, including an article in the LA Times and a segment on CBS’ The Early Show. ​​​​​​​