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      Press Release
      July 10, 2023

      A century of increased safety on Europe’s roads: The VDO tachograph is 100 years old!

      • In 1923, a device recorded the driving and stopping times of a vehicle on a diagram disc for the first time
      • Continental’s Villingen site in the Black Forest still develops and produces tachographs with watchmaking tradition
      • Smart tachograph of the second version mandatory from August 2023 within the European Union and other European countries
      • Ismail Dagli, Head of the Smart Mobility businesss unit at Continental: Hardly any other instrument in the commercial vehicle cockpit has changed everyday life on Europe’s roads like the tachograph.”

      For Continental, the year 2023 brings with it two important events from the tachograph world: The first event took place exactly 100 years ago in Villingen, Germany, when the father of the VDO tachograph, Dr. Herbert Kienzle, invented the first device that could record both the driving and stopping times of a vehicle on a diagram disc. The second event? The technology company will be equipping the first commercial vehicles with the new DTCO 4.1, the second version of the smart tachograph, just in time for the August 21, 2023 deadline. This will launch a three-year upgrade and retrofit campaign mandated by the EU Mobility Package 1. “Hardly any other instrument in the commercial vehicle cockpit has changed everyday life on Europe’s roads like the tachograph. It has made competition in transport logistics fairer, working conditions for drivers safer, and fleet management increasingly efficient,” says Ismail Dagli, Head of the Smart Mobility business unit at Continental. “We are very proud to be able to continue this tradition at our Villingen site with the DTCO 4.1 and subsequent models.”

      Today, tachograph data is no longer recorded in analog form on a disc but stored digitally on chip cards and mass storage media; in some cases, it is transferred to the cloud in real time. Finally, in 2023, the data collected will no longer be limited to speed, driving and stopping times, and distance traveled, but will be a treasure trove of data from a wide variety of areas of the vehicle that, with the right services, will deliver real added value for efficiency, safety, and compliance.

      VDO, which has been part of the Continental Group since 2007, conquered the European market with its VDO tachograph. Today, millions of commercial vehicles in international transport use one of the tachographs developed and manufactured at the Villingen site. However, the product range from the Black Forest no longer consists of hardware alone. Thanks to the fleet management platform VDO Fleet, additional devices for connectivity and new service offerings based on tachograph data, Continental sees itself as a partner when it comes to compliance and increasing efficiency in transport logistics.

      From watchmaking dynasty to European market leader

      The roots of the VDO tachograph lie in the Black Forest. It was here that Dr. Herbert Kienzle invented the Autorex clock at the Kienzle Uhrenfabrik 100 years ago – the first instrument that could record driving and stopping times simultaneously on a coated diagram disc, the immediate predecessor of the TCO 1 (the abbreviation TCO stands for tachograph). As a member of a Schwenningen watchmaking dynasty, the inventor was extremely precise in his work and had an inherited talent for measuring times, distances and speeds. Over the decades, the tachograph has undergone further technological development and has been adapted to new regulatory conditions: step by step, the round clock shape became a flat box, which today fits into the radio slot in the dashboard. The centrifugal pendulum principle originally used for velocity measurement was replaced by the much more accurate eddy-current principle.

      The countdown to DTCO 4.1 is underway

      With the new second version of the smart tachograph, the digital tachograph now has a control function for the first time in its history, one that goes beyond the recording of working and operating times. The DTCO 4.1 supports the monitoring and enforcement of the new EU Mobility Package 1 requirements, which are aimed at improving safety and working conditions in transport logistics. These requirements also include proof of cabotage journeys and the posting of driving personnel – put simply, deployment outside the home country. “For us, the main challenge was to translate the requirements from Brussels into the appropriate technology,” explains Matthias Kliché, Head of Legal Requirements in the Connected Commercial Vehicle Solutions business segment. “And we’ve succeeded with this, because the DTCO 4.1 received official type approval in early June 2023.”

      This means that no more obstacles are left for the planned product launch on August 21, 2023. On that date, all newly registered commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 metric tons must have the second version of the smart tachograph on board. This will be followed by the gradual retrofitting of commercial vehicles used in cross-border traffic over the next three years. This retrofitting obligation stipulated by the European Union is another first in the history of the tachograph. Until now, new generations of the tachograph have never had to be retrofitted.

      That is why Continental is expecting a rush of several waves to hit workshops when transport and bus companies want to have the new tachographs installed. “We recommend that fleet operators make an appointment with their workshop for the retrofit as early as possible,” says Dirk Gandras, who manages the tachograph program in the Connected Commercial Vehicle Solutions business segment. “This way they’ll avoid missing the deadline that applies to them due to scheduling issues, and benefit from the powerful performance of the new tachograph sooner.” Dirk Gandras encourages workshops to actively recommend the retrofit to their customers as part of the mandatory periodic inspection – this will avoid a traffic jam in front of workshop pits and lifting platforms.

      Continental has published a 40-page booklet on the history of the VDO tachograph – it can be downloaded as a PDF file. There is also a web version of the historical facts and anecdotes. You can learn more about the history of the VDO tachograph here.

      Available documents