Connected Car | Emerging Trends | Regulation
March 12, 2020

How ITU Member Continental views the future of autonomous mobility

By ITU News

ITU News recently connected with Frank Jourdan, Member of the Continental Executive Board and President of the Business Area Autonomous Mobility and Safety of Continental.

Continental, an ITU Member, recently announced it will be building a new plant for driver assistance systems.

Why is this new plant for advanced driver assistance systems important for Continental?

The purpose of the new building is to expand our capacity for the production of radar sensors. Advanced driver assistance systems save lives and we are one of the world’s market leaders in this area. We are benefiting from steadily increasing fitment rates in new vehicles. And in the future, too, we are anticipating major growth opportunities. The capacity expansion in our new location in New Braunfels, Texas, is part of our growth strategy. Between 2015 and 2019, sales more than doubled and we can see good opportunities to expand our market position even further in the future. We also operate our own development centers and production sites in the major regions of Europe, America and Asia enabling it to offer customized solutions to its customers. Customer proximity in the individual regions is of paramount importance to us.

For one thing is sure: only the widespread use of active safety technologies will help to achieve the EU goal of halving the number of road fatalities by 2030.

How do advanced driver assistance systems actually save lives and how is Continental uniquely positioned to help make these systems a reality?

Our “Vision Zero” – the vision of crash-free driving – will continue to drive our developments in safety technologies and to make safety available to everyone around the globe. For one thing is sure: only the widespread use of active safety technologies will help to achieve the EU goal of halving the number of road fatalities by 2030. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are a main building block to realize Vision Zero.

Continental offers all relevant components for both assisted and automated driving from a single source. This includes the sensors for environment detection based on radar, camera, lidar and ultrasound technology. In addition, of course, we also supply the central control unit (Assisted & Automated Driving Control Unit) with the necessary computing power to realize the higher functional scope. This includes software solutions (end-to-end) as well as system integration competence related to the complete system architecture. We must not forget the tires in our portfolio: We are the only company that has the know-how and the competence to master the contact between vehicle and road.

Are radar sensors becoming standard in all new cars?

The demand for all kind of sensors, not only for radar sensors, will grow strongly in the next years. At the moment, the demand is still mainly driven by safety regulations and consumer ratings like NCAP or IIHS (Top Safety Pick). The number and also the design of the sensor setup strongly depends on the specific function to be implemented (e.g. driving and/or parking functions). A general statement about which sensor set will be installed can therefore not be given. However, the higher the degree of automation, the higher the number of sensors installed. This is especially true with regard to redundancy and protection. Status today for highly automated systems a sensor set based at least on radar, camera and lidar will be used. Different sensors have also different strengths. Radar sensors e.g. are superior in measuring speed and distance to objects surrounding the car including severe weather and illumination conditions compared to a camera.

 

What is Continental’s strategy for autonomous mobility and safety in the next five years?

Automated and autonomous driving is an exciting and relevant part of Continental’s growth story and a big contribution for greater safety.
We see a clear time shift of higher automation levels from Level 3 upwards and are working intensively with our partners in the passenger car business on the series development of scalable Level 2 premium system solutions. Concentrating on systems that can be approved according to current standards will help to bring them to market on a broad basis. With our broad and comprehensive portfolio, we are excellently positioned in terms of product strategy. Along the SensePlanAct chain of effects, for example, we cover all the important core areas of automated driving with modern sensor systems, powerful computer units and redundant electric brake systems.

Automated and autonomous driving is an exciting and relevant part of Continental’s growth story and a big contribution for greater safety.

In addition to the passenger car business, we are working intensively on system solutions and functions for commercial vehicles and trucks. We expect driverless minibuses to be part of the traffic mix in our cities and communities in about a decade. Also known as robo-taxis, they are expected to share the burden of inner-city traffic and form another link in our urban transport systems. With the CUbE development platform, a global network of researchers and developers at Continental has created a concept vehicle for the practical testing of these research activities. Continental’s experts are based at five competence centers in Germany, Singapore, Japan, China and the USA and work together on the development and validation of technologies.

In the truck sector, we have entered into a partnership with Knorr-Bremse AG to develop a complete system solution for highly automated driving (HAD) in commercial vehicles. This will enable the partners to offer HAD solutions for truck series production of any size in the future. The cooperation covers all functions for driver assistance and highly automated driving.

What do you see are the challenges?

The biggest obstacle is the lack of a legal framework for highly automated driving in 2020. It’s now high time that the legislature opens up the way to the actual use of automated driving. In Germany we see new laws on automated driving as an important step forward. Though we see still the necessity to further specify in detail. These are steps in the right direction, and the logical development following amendment of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Nevertheless, the specific wording still requires modification and detailing. Also, the appropriate UNECE regulations must be adapted at short notice to ensure a standardized legal structure. Furthermore, a detailed legal ruling on the responsibility of drivers and manufacturers and on the liability situation is of course essential for the future.

 

What are some of the biggest trends you see for automated vehicles moving forward?

We see seamless mobility and software as two of the biggest trends when it comes to automated vehicles and future mobility. Seamless Mobility means driving with an automated private owned car automated until the city border. By using valet parking the car waits until it is needed again. The ‘last mile’ will be reach through a driverless vehicle which waits at the valet parking space to bring the people to their final destination. Further our vision of a seamless mobility also emphasizes the autonomous transportation of goods and special vehicles such as drones.

Software will largely define the automated and connected car of the future and new software- and services-related business models will become important.

Continental has the systems and components not only for automated but also tailored to driverless vehicle technology. Many aspects of the technology used in driverless vehicles are based on driver assistance systems and sensors like radar and camera, that are already installed in today’s series production vehicles. At Continental, researchers and developers worldwide are working to make proven series production technologies suitable for use in robo-taxis. In 2019, our radar sensor went into production for the first time in French company EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle. Continental has held a stake in this driverless vehicle manufacturer since 2017. More tried-and-tested products from high-volume car production, such as brake systems, will be adapted in the near future to make them suitable for a completely new type of mobility.

Moreover, in our eyes, software is a big trend and “the new wheel of the industry”. Processes with regard to mobility are becoming increasingly complex and more strongly interconnected. These processes need to be controlled and managed reliably, requiring ever greater amounts of software. Software will largely define the automated and connected car of the future and new software- and services-related business models will become important.

Photo: Continental AG

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How ITU Member Continental views the future of autonomous mobility

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