Beam Me Up, Conti! Testing Tomorrow’s Car Tech, Today

Beam Me Up, Conti! Testing Tomorrow’s Car Tech, Today

Adaptive cruise control, emergency brake assist and blind-spot monitoring were the stuff of science fiction just a decade ago, but today these features are available on many reasonably priced, mass-market vehicles. Pushing driver assistance even further, Continental is developing a suite of advanced technologies with some pretty amazing capabilities.

Recently the tier-one auto parts supplier invited a small group of media up to its 540-acre test facility in Brimley, Michigan, in the state’s sparsely populated (and frigid) Upper Peninsula. The German company showed off a number of exciting new technologies, some of which are on the market right now, and others that will be coming out in a couple years.

Riding Along in a Self-Driving Car

Without a doubt the most impressive thing on display was the firm’s Highly Automated Driving Car. It may look like a standard-issue Volkswagen Passat, but it’s actually been outfitted with a suite of aerospace-grade technologies. Four short-range radar sensors are mounted around the perimeter of the vehicle, one at each corner. They can detect objects more than 50 feet away. Additionally, there’s a long-range radar sensor at the front of the vehicle as well as a stereoscopic camera mounted at the top of the windshield.

Continental-Automated-Driving-01.jpgAll of these cutting-edge electronics work together, something engineers refer to as “sensor fusion.” The result of all that computerized cooperation is a car that can actually drive itself on the highway. It can steer, stop and accelerate on its own, all while keeping up with traffic and staying safely in its lane. The vehicle has logged more than 16,000 miles of fully-automatic driving, with no crashes or other “incidents” to report. Highly automated driving technology could become commercially available around the year 2020.

SEE ALSO: Automatic Driving Just a Few Years Away

Making this feat even more impressive is that all of the electronics are off the shelf, meaning they’re in production and on the road today. The car performs its duties without any elaborate or expensive one-off sensors. “That was the plan, to see where we are and where we can go,” said Ibro Muharemovic, a member of Continental’s advanced engineering team.

Continental-Automated-Driving-05.jpgAside from driving itself on the highway this modified Passat has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Conti representatives demonstrated the car’s ability to cope with heavy road congestion. The company’s Traffic Jam Assist feature can take over driving duties at low speeds, freeing motorists from the tedium of stop-and-go bottlenecks. This system could reach the market by 2016, or even sooner.

With Traffic Jam Assist “[the] driver is actively monitoring the surroundings” Muharemovic said, as the technology is only indented for low-speed use. It’s an “introduction to highly automated driving,” he said. “As time progresses we can increase the speed of the vehicle.”

SEE ALSO: Conti First Auto Supplier Approved to Test Autonomous Cars in Nevada

Beyond these advanced driver-assistance systems, Continental had another safety technology on display. A pedestrian avoidance system is under development as well. Using the same battery of off-the-shelf sensors it can detect people that wander into a vehicle’s path and stop the car before there’s an impact. If it’s not possible to come to a complete halt, the system can at least reduce the severity of the crash.

Continental-Automated-Driving-09.jpg

Blind-Spot Detection with Trailer Towing

Blind spot monitoring systems are really gaining traction. Just a couple years ago they were exclusive to the luxury segment, but now they’re offered on countless vehicles from just about every manufacturer.

The technology is particularly helpful on big vehicles with large blind spots – pickup trucks for instance. But a useful safety feature can be rendered little more than a pricey annoyance if a trailer is added into the equation. Thankfully the folks at Conti have a solution.

Engineers have developed a blind-spot monitor that can actually tell if something is hooked to the back of a truck. Competing systems on the market right now need to be switched off in similar situations because they’ll constantly beep, warning the driver of an obstacle – the trailer.

100_3162Continental’s technology can detect how long a trailer in tow actually is and alert the driver when something is in its way. This is perfect when changing lanes on the highway where it’s hard to tell if a trailer has cleared other traffic.

Two radar sensors drive this system; one is mounted in each of the rear tail lamps. “The sensors see everything around,” said Holger Schanz, Senior Manager for Advanced Technology and Innovation. They have a range of about 50 feet and a 180-degree field of view.

“It sounds simple but technically it’s quite a challenge,” said Schanz. A lot of computer processing goes into making the system function, and in demonstrations it worked very well. He said, “We track everything that passes by the sensor,” and sorting moving objects from stationary ones is a “very complicated task.”

Still, the technology is expected to hit the market shortly, probably around 2015. “Customers are very interested in it,” Schanz said, particularly OEMs that sell a lot of trucks.

Electronic Parking Brake

One feature that’s available today is Continental’s Electronic Parking Brake. This technology made its North American debut on the 2013 Ford Fusion.

2013-Ford-Fusion-3q-low.jpgThe big appeal of this system is its drive-away release capability. Practically everyone’s taken off with the parking brake left on at some point in their motoring career; it’s inevitable, especially with a manual transmission. But on the new Fusion this is no longer an issue. The electric parking brake releases itself automatically – just put the car in gear, hit the accelerator and go. There’s no chance of damaging the rear brakes or slowing the vehicle down with unnecessary drag.

Engineers also integrated an emergency function into the system. If the pedal is obstructed with a water bottle or child’s toy for instance and stopping performance is reduced, the parking-brake switch can be pulled up and held, which applies the brakes and stops the car. In testing it worked amazingly well, stopping the car safely and swiftly.

Additionally, there’s a layer of redundancy. If part of the hydraulic system fails the electric parking-brake actuators at the rear wheels can be used for stopping in emergency situations. To prevent a loss-of-control situation they pulse from side to side to keep the car in a straight line. It’s pretty neat, but something that will probably, or rather hopefully, never be needed.

Four-Corner Air Suspension

No doubt you’ve heard Chrysler singing the virtues of its new air suspension fitted to the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup, but here’s a secret: The system was actually developed by Continental.

“Air suspension has been very popular in Europe and now it’s starting to come over here” said Heidi Hahn, a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer. And what’s not to like? It’s height adjustable and delivers a smooth ride with confident handling.

The Ram 1500 has an air bladder and height sensor mounted at each corner. These parts work in conjunction with an electric compressor located at the rear of the truck, an out-of-the-way location that keeps unwanted noise as far from the cabin as possible.

100_3163Conti makes all kinds of automotive parts from electronic sensors to powertrain products, from interior bits to braking systems. They’re even a rubber company, perhaps you’ve heard of their tires. With expertise across multiple domains they can do a lot of different things and according to Hahn, “The whole system is our components.”

From its lowest setting to its highest, the suspension can adjust a full four inches, meaning it can drop down for easier entry and exit, not to mention better fuel economy at high speeds; and of course it can raise up for more ground clearance off road.

Some truck owners may question the suspension’s durability, but Hahn said, “The lifespan of an air spring is longer than a steel spring.” Augmenting the longevity benefit, the system is also about 6.5 pounds lighter.

Aside from the Ram truck, Conti’s air suspension is also used on the Tesla Model S and Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.

A Glimpse in Continental’s Crystal Ball

From highly automatic driving to advanced blind-spot detection Continental is on the cutting edge of automotive technology. Many of their systems are already on the market, but their most exciting stuff is still under development. These advanced driver-assistance features promise to revolutionize motoring as we know it, nearly eliminating accidents, while making time spent commuting much more productive.

GALLERY: Highly Automated Driving Car

Continental-Automated-Driving-01.jpgContinental-Automated-Driving-02.jpgContinental-Automated-Driving-03.jpgContinental-Automated-Driving-05.jpgContinental-Automated-Driving-06.jpgContinental-Automated-Driving-07.jpgContinental-Automated-Driving-08.jpg

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked