“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.
“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 USA as well as in Japan, China, and Germany. Our engineers are tackling six key challenges: sensor technology, cluster connectivity, human-machine dialogue, 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.
“In the future, we will be installing sensors in the tyres, which will enable the car to detect the condition of the road’s surface. “Tyres 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.”
Dialogue between humans 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 needs 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, requires a powerful and reliable electronics architecture.
Reliability: At present,advanced driver assistance systems function as a fall-back 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 dialogue 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.
Employing a “cluster” of interconnected vehicles and collating and analysing the data they have collected in the traffic backend computer, creates 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 pre-programmed information on the route’s elevation profile to adjust its transmission and drive systems, thus saving over 1 500 litres 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.
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, a mild hybrid system with 48-volt on-board power supply will become vital. “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 of the system in Europe, Asia, and the USA 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.