Success takes hard work – not to mention millions of test kilometers all over the world through dust, on asphalt, in the rain, in frost and in the hot sun. This is the only way to validate system limits and the performance of highly complex automated driving solutions such as Continental’s Cruising Chauffeur.
Looking Over the Test Driver’s Shoulder
It won’t be long before we’re sharing the streets with driverless vehicles. To achieve this goal, Continental has been advancing the cause of automated driving for many years with worldwide research activities involving the development of sensors, vehicle computers, operating systems and software for automated driving, particularly in Japan, China, the U.S.A and Germany – in proximity to the various markets and taking into account country-specific needs. The engineers test their vehicles on private test tracks as well as on public roads. This all occurs under the watchful eye of development experts, who sit in the driver’s seat and continuously monitor the prototypes.
Automated driving will not only help car drivers to save time, but also enhance road safety and reduce emissions.
A Chauffeur Made of Bits and Bytes
Digital technologies complement and replace human capabilities. Like an autopilot, the Cruising Chauffeur will soon make it possible for vehicles to take responsibility for driving on freeways in full compliance with national traffic regulations. Intensive testing in this field is already taking place in Germany. In addition to freeway sections, the planned routes also include country roads; urban routes are planned for later test intervals. Following automated driving on the freeways, the more complex requirements of country roads will be the focus of activities in the medium term. Here, automated driving systems will have to cope with cross traffic, the huge range of different road borders and, just like in urban traffic, pedestrians and cyclists. The Cruising Chauffeur perceives much more on the roads than today’s drivers and passengers and so, for country roads, will almost certainly be ready for production in the foreseeable future. Continental offers automotive manufacturers a comprehensive portfolio of diverse technologies that complement each other perfectly and cover a wide range of driving scenarios. The combination of camera, radar and lidar sensors offers maximum reliability by day and night, in rain or fog: The vehicle electronics combine separately recorded images and data to form an environmental model that can be used, for example, to identify construction site markings in fog or vehicles driving ahead when the car is driving into the sunlight.
Test engineers play a decisive role in all Continental tests. Following intensive simulations, they check the basic functionality and then test all functions in the Continental test environments and then on public roads. These include vehicle surroundings monitoring, system architecture, connectivity, human–machine interfaces, actuators, driving functions and the measures that take effect if a fault occurs. Everything has to be carefully coordinated and harmonized – under every conceivable external condition.
Creating Added Value Automatically
Latest-generation automated driving: In addition to the Cruising Chauffeur, new driving functions offer a range of attractive benefits. Relaxation, more time, enhanced safety and convenience – these are just some of the benefits that many practical technologies already in use today in everyday life can bring.
Traffic Jam Assist
Traffic jams are annoying and physically tiring and despite the low speeds rear-end collisions are all too common – in other words, a traffic jam is the perfect place for automated driving functions to step in. Thanks to Traffic Jam Assist, the driver can transfer all the stress and bother to the car at the touch of a button. Braking, driving off, keeping a safe distance – everything happens automatically, allowing the driver to relax a little.
Parking – a routine procedure performed at very low speeds – is another maneuver that lends itself perfectly to automation technology in normal parking situations. Panoramic cameras detect potential parking spaces and show them on a display. Once the driver has selected a parking space, the vehicle automatically maneuvers into the final parking position with a series of controlled starting and braking maneuvers.
Remote Garage Parking
The processing power of computers allows them to achieve much more accurate results than humans. Remote Garage Parking ensures safe parking even in narrow garages; panoramic cameras identify the garage and the path into it. The driver can get out of their car and leave it to drive into the garage, where it is automatically guided to a final halt in the parking position in safety mode.
Some routine procedures are simply annoying, so if you find yourself performing the same parking maneuvers again and again, then you’ll love the super-convenient Trained Parking feature. This function stores the sequence of parking maneuvers, so when you’re driving along a particular route for the first time, the system uses sensor data to create a highly accurate map of the surroundings, which it then saves. When the car detects that it is again located on this same map, it can determine its exact position, automatically drive along the route it has already learned and easily find space even in narrow parking spots.
Nobody enjoys driving up, down and around through parking garages. With Valet Parking, the driver gets out of the car at a transfer point in front of the parking garage and activates the vehicle’s automatic parking function. The car then drives through the barrier automatically, finds a free parking space and maneuvers into it. The driver can use their smartphone to control the car, which then later drives itself back to the transfer point where the driver is waiting.
Reinventing the Wheel in Texas
Pioneers have always felt right at home in the Wild West – as do Continental engineers in Uvalde, a small prairie town situated between San Antonio and the Mexican border, where they are researching the sustainable tires of the future. This requires high-precision test results, which is why an automated test vehicle is tirelessly running continuous laps on the Continental test track. Because the car is always driving at an even speed, it produces perfect test results. With no driver. And with no mistakes.
A Gathering of Automotive Legends
Automated driving was already a technological standard at Continental even before Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. It may be hard to believe, but 50 years ago, a driverless Mercedes /8 completed a long run of laps on the Continental test site in Hanover. Back then, as now at the test track at Uvalde in Texas, the experts were conducting research into tire technology, the aim being to achieve optimal and undistorted tire test results. In the film, three of the leading engineers from 50 years ago come face to face with state-of-the-art research, giving viewers a real insight into how the technology has evolved in the intervening years. Fifty years is a blink of an eye – the feature-length film about automotive legends of all kinds is a fascinating piece of contemporary history.
In the public discourse surrounding automated driving, it is often forgotten that roads are the domain of not only cars but also freight transport. Continental has now entered into a partnership with Knorr-Bremse – the world market leader in brake systems for rail and commercial vehicles – in the field of highly automated driving of commercial vehicles. The aim is to develop turnkey system solutions for highly automated convoys of commercial vehicles. To enable “platooning,” Continental is supplying a range of components including sensors, environmental models, central computing units and human–machine interaction systems. The first platoon of three trucks will be hitting the roads regularly from the beginning of 2019.
Greater Efficiency and Safety in Freight Transport
The world of international freight transport is extremely competitive, and the market is fierce. In this field, technological development is crucial for success. Trucks in a platoon formation consume up to 15% less fuel, for example, which leads to enormous savings potential kilometer by kilometer and has the bonus of significantly reducing emissions. In addition, automation means an overall increase in road safety because driving functions assisting with lane changes, driving on construction sites or emergency braking ensure that commercial vehicles will drive more safely in the future. So if anytime soon you see a truck with no driver sitting behind the wheel, you can rest assured that the truck is in the safe hands of highly advanced future technology.
Automated driving will soon be ready for mass production. When this time comes, we will be chauffeured to the shops, to business appointments or on holiday, taking us one giant step closer to Vision Zero – the vision of accident-free driving.