- Technology corporation is striving for zero traffic accidents, clean air, and intelligent vehicles with added convenience
- Tire development, weight reduction, and electrification remain ongoing topics
- 48-volt technology: the popular hybrid as a stepping stone to meeting ever-stricter emissions standards
Frankfurt am Main, September 14, 2015. In a triumphant finale to its “Summer of Innovation,” the technology corporation Continental will present, at the IAA 2015 in Frankfurt (hall 5.1, booth A08), its fundamental building blocks on the road to automated driving. “We are working on being able to offer affordable mobility, with three key aspects: zero road traffic accidents, clean air, and intelligent vehicles with added convenience,” explained Dr. Elmar Degenhart, chairman of the Continental Executive Board, on the occasion of the International Motor Show. Continental is one of the leading pioneers of connected and automated driving.
Assisted and automated driving for zero accidents
The key to “zero accidents” is assisted driving. As Continental sees it, automated driving will be accepted if people trust the technology. “Acceptance of automated driving will rise as confidence in the advanced driver assistance systems increases. It also depends on how we can ensure that drivers know what their car is planning to do next. Backed by electronics and software, the chauffeur button for automated driving provides an additional element of freedom in the car. This freedom can but does not have to be used. We will always leave it up to the driver to decide when to use our automated driving features. And if these features are switched off, our advanced driver assistance systems will still help to protect the driver.
Politicians must clear the way for the use of automated driving
“Our work makes us pioneers when it comes to fully automated driving. The technology for this is getting closer and closer to being ready for use on the road. This is why we welcome the establishment of digital test areas, such as those approved or planned in various German states. It is now high time for lawmakers to lay the legislative groundwork for the everyday use of automated driving," urged Degenhart. “After all, an important step when it comes to highly automated driving – on freeways, for example – is to establish a legal framework so that drivers no longer have to constantly monitor the situation on the road.”
Work is also underway at Continental on several autonomous – and thus driverless – driving features, particularly with a view to implementing convenient parking systems. The technology corporation will be showcasing its extremely practical Surround View camera system for this at the IAA.
The six challenges of automated driving
“We are developing the necessary components and systems for automated driving worldwide – in the U.S.A. as well as in Japan, China, and Germany. Our engineers are tackling six key challenges: sensor technology, cluster connectivity, human-machine dialog, system architecture, reliability, and the acceptance of automated driving," said Degenhart, describing the company's automated driving work packages.
Sensor technology: Zero accidents are no longer a utopia. Advanced driver assistance systems with sensors can record the area around the vehicle just as well as humans, if not better. Rear-view mirrors can be replaced by camera systems, which not only increase safety, but also reduce CO2 emissions from cars and commercial vehicles. For the sensor fusion, and ultimately for evaluating the sensor data, Continental is researching the use of artificial intelligence. On the theme of "safety through learning," Continental has launched a research project with the Technical University of Darmstadt called PRORETA 4, which explores self-learning systems and artificial intelligence.
At the IAA, the company will be presenting its new SportContact 6 tire that provides excellent grip at speeds of up to 350 kilometers per hour. “The high-tech SportContact 6 is just as innovative and essential as new state-of-the-art electronics. After all, it’s the tires that transfer the car’s power intelligently on to the road and ensure reliable road-holding," said Degenhart.
“In the future, we will be installing sensors in the tires, which will enable the car to detect the condition of the road’s surface. “Tires will therefore become a key part of our sensor network in the car,” added Degenhart. “Continental is also working on a unique anticipatory driving system that will be able to learn.”
Cluster connectivity: The Internet will become the car's sixth sense. Continental is working on a powerful backend that will provide highly accurate traffic information. The basis for this will be the sensor data shared by road users coupled with the traffic backend computer. Sharing data increases the sensors’ range and enables the vehicle to “see around corners.”
Dialog between human and machine: What is the strategy if the vehicle arrives at an exit to a freeway in fully automated mode and the driver is supposed to take control again? In its interactive 3D cinema, Continental will be unveiling a cockpit for the interaction between vehicle and driver – an important answer to the question of control.
System architecture: Future system architectures for automated driving will have to securely manage the huge amount of data that is to be processed in the car. One gigabyte of sensor data per minute has to be processed in real time. Increasing sensor output and the resultant increase in the volume of data require a powerful and reliable electronics architecture.
Reliability: At present, advanced driver assistance systems function as a fallback for the driver. With automated driving, in the event of a malfunction, the vehicle must be able to continue safely on its way or to come to a controlled, safe stop. Specially configured brake systems are already being tested in fleets. Protection against attempts at manipulation must also be considered. Processes that will recognize such attempts and protect the vehicle systems are currently in development.
Acceptance: As Continental sees it, automated driving will be accepted if people trust the technology. Trust evolves from the intelligent dialog between the driver and the vehicle. The developers of today’s advanced driver assistance and driver information systems are taking this into account and laying the groundwork for the acceptance of tomorrow’s solutions.
Connected driving: Dynamic electronic horizon increases efficiency and convenience
Connected cars can use their sensors to collect a large amount of information on changing events – such as traffic jams, accidents, traffic lights, warning signs, and road conditions – and share this with other road users via the Internet. If you use a “cluster” of interconnected vehicles and collate and analyze the data they have collected in the traffic backend computer, you will have an up-to-date extremely accurate image of the traffic network and traffic flow. This information can then be used by other vehicles and their advanced driver assistance systems or other features.
“The more a vehicle knows about the route ahead, the better it can adapt and configure its features accordingly. Being connected means it can learn to look ahead,” said Degenhart. Continental will be presenting an example of this: its eHorizon.
A static version of eHorizon has been used in commercial vehicles since 2012. In this application, it uses preprogrammed information on the route’s elevation profile to adjust its transmission and drive systems, thus saving over 1,500 liters of fuel per truck a year.
Dynamic eHorizon will enable a vehicle to keep learning during the journey and therefore use the range of its sensors to see what’s around the next corner. This also means that Continental’s system does not need to store anywhere near as much information as a navigation system. The result is still exceptional: the information available is up to date, the driver is warned in good time and can adjust his or her driving accordingly, the traffic flow is more efficiently controlled, and the route, for example, can be adjusted to the current situation. Furthermore, dynamic eHorizon can also be connected to smart, mobile communication devices, so that those travelling in the vehicle can stay connected to their digital worlds and to future digital services.
The popular hybrid: a milestone on the road to more efficiency and cleaner air
Increased efficiency is another key aspect of the development activities at Continental. To meet the ever-stricter, extremely ambitious emissions standards, what is needed is the mild hybrid with the 48-volt on-board power supply. “It has what it takes to become a popular hybrid because it uses 20 percent less fuel, is relatively affordable and can be used in all vehicle classes,” says Degenhart, highlighting its benefits. Continental will begin production in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.A. in 2016.
“Reducing weight and lowering consumption are the ongoing challenges our whole company is tackling to make mobility more efficient. Our turbochargers lower CO2 emissions of new vehicles by up to seven percent and together with direct fuel injection by as much as 13 percent,” explained Degenhart. Turbocharger hose lines and transmission crossbeams are becoming increasingly lighter thanks to the use of high-performance plastics.
“Due to the limited output of current battery technology, all-electric vehicles will remain a niche product for the next few years,” he added. For Continental, progress depends on several major challenges: “The electric vehicle and its battery must have a service life of around 200,000 kilometers to meet customer expectations. A range of 500 kilometers on one charge is still the minimum required by customers. And it must be available at an affordable price. Finally, there will need to be a suitable charging infrastructure – ideally with the option of inductive charging. We are still a few years away from fulfilling these requirements,” said Degenhart.