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      February 03, 2021

      How We Built Cutting Edge Road Safety Tech for the VW ID.3 in Times of a Pandemic

      There were two reasons why I joined Continental four years ago. The first was the opportunity to work in a field where progress is so rapid. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are developing extremely fast. Research and funds are focused on the systems and almost every day, someone makes a breakthrough in projects that hardly anyone would have thought possible a little while ago. A dream for every tech-lover.

      The second reason I wanted to work in this field is the possibility to work on a project that could save lives and give something back to society. About 1.35 million people die in traffic accidents every year, 93 percent of them in low and middle-income countries, even though only 60 percent of the world's vehicles are driven there, according to WHO figures. As a native of Bangalore, I can do nothing but share Continental's Vision Zero: Zero Fatalities, Zero Injuries, Zero Crashes.

      Our goal: Achieve a five-star rating in the safety assessment

      Since my first day, I was involved in a pilot project for an automated emergency braking (AEB) system. Four years later, our technology has been incorporated into the new VW ID.3, the all-electric Volkswagen of the future. In this video, VW CEO Herbert Diess even told Elon Musk about the great assistance systems. It is one of the first cars to achieve five stars in the safety assessment under the NCAP 2020 protocol, the standardized test protocol for safety systems.

      A complex procedure behind a simple braking

      But first, what does an AEB system actually do? The simple answer: it automatically brakes the car in a dangerous situation. Driven by accident statistics, there are three main types of driving situations which can become critical and should lead AEB intervention: a car, a bike and a pedestrian in or close to path of our car.

      Our project is based on several sensors, major contributions to the AEB function give the radar from Continental and cameras for which a third-party supplier was responsible. My team was in charge of prioritizing AEB specific signals from fused signal they receive from the sensor and to let the system take a decision: Is the obstacle detected reliably? What is the type or class of the object? Is situation critical and how will it develop? This information is then delivered to the AEB system of VW.

      The colleagues at Volkswagen were then in turn responsible for ensuring that the AEB system actually applies the brake in the car on the signal we provided. What sounds straightforward at first, quickly becomes very complex. In projects like these, with several people responsible, it is particularly important to keep everyone on the same page.


      The pandemic tested our ability to collaborate across continents under time pressure

      This applies not only to colleagues in other companies but also to the collaboration with colleagues at other Continental locations. Since last December, more than one million test kilometers have been completed by our fellow employees at the test tracks in Germany. However, when the pandemic began, it was impossible for anyone to travel – and working together became a whole new challenge.

      We set up a task force and organized ourselves in a way that we were able to work with each other virtually in real-time - regardless of the time difference and various locations. To achieve our milestone goals under tight deadlines, we came up with innovative ideas to enable rapid development cycles. Data was collected on the test track in Germany, our multi-disciplinary teams in Bangalore analyzed it and processed the findings, then tested again. Coaching young engineers under dynamic conditions, it was wonderful to see how great our team worked together – this says a lot about the global spirit of our company.

      Despite all hurdles, we have ultimately met our goal: the top score in the NCAP protocol. I am particularly proud of the work of all those involved. This five-star safety rating not only reflects our great work but that I have achieved what I set out to do when I joined Continental four years ago: I was involved in a project at the forefront of technological progress - and we built a system that could save lives. I am very grateful and proud to be a part of this effort.


      This article was written by our employee.

      Balasubramanyam Padmanabha

      Group Lead - Safety Functions Group