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Continental wants to make partially automated driving a reality as early as the current decade, and believes that fully automated driving on certain route sections could be possible by 2025.

Continental looks to eHorizon for fully automated vehicles

Intelligent commercial vehicles will play an important role in helping the industry achieve success tied to the key themes that surfaced at the 65th IAA Commercial Vehicles in Hannover, Germany. These themes centered on improving fuel efficiency, CO2 reductions, connected commercial vehicles, and reducing total cost of ownership for end users.

Continental showcased several products on these topics and offered its view on the latest trends and developments in the commercial vehicle business in which it sees itself increasingly becoming a solution provider.

“We are in a perfect position to develop integrated solutions for our customers in the transport industry,” said Nikolai Setzer, Member of the Executive Board and Head of Tire Division of Continental.

Continental sees a path forward toward automated driving that includes continuously developing and extending current driver-assistance systems. The supplier believes this path will make the transport of goods and people not only safer, but also more efficient and comfortable. It wants to make partially automated driving a reality as early as the current decade, and believes that fully automated driving on certain route sections could be possible by 2025.

“One vital underpinning of the so-called intelligent transport systems is highly accurate maps as well as access to networked mobility data,” explained Dr. Michael Ruf, Head of the Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket Business Unit at Continental. “Continental collaborates closely with partners from many different industries in order to implement advanced vehicle services.”

Networked electronic horizon

With its Connected eHorizon, Continental presented what it believes is one of the key elements on the way to fully automated vehicles. This “networked electronic horizon” uses navigation data more effectively by deploying crowdsourcing technology to extend the underlying topographic maps with information from the sensors of other road users. As a result, the digital map will become more precise and up to date and can prepare the vehicle electronics for the road ahead. This can help avoid unnecessary acceleration before curves or uphill inclines, thus cutting fuel consumption by up to 6% and significantly reducing potentially dangerous situations. According to Continental, the systems will constantly learn, becoming more reliable as more vehicle data becomes available to them.

“The eHorizon of the future will simplify anticipative driving and act as the basis for countless other technological developments,” says Ruf.

In its next generation, the eHorizon will give vehicles the ability to “see around the corner” as the system transfers data from its environment sensors to the cloud, while simultaneously making use of the aggregated vehicle and traffic information it can access in real time and accurate to the lane in which the vehicle is traveling. Thanks to what Continental calls the Dynamic eHorizon, drivers and automated vehicles of the future will be less likely to be surprised by fog patches, ice, or accidents on the route ahead. Vehicles equipped with eHorizon are able to detect specific driving situations before they are recognized by the driver or vehicle sensors and can adapt the engine power and transmission to the road circumstances. Additionally, eHorizon prepares the vehicle actuators for coming events. This will also permit intelligent navigation, which will guide traffic around congested areas without clogging up the alternative routes.

“Most OEMs today are taking the eHorizon device we have in the vehicle and implementing it with cruise control for a certain percentage of fuel mileage increase and CO2 reduction,” explained Phil McEwen, Director of Sales, Continental Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket Business Unit, NAFTA. “And then at that point, they are learning from us how to further integrate it into the vehicle. It’s going to evolve. We put the road ahead on the network and that gives it the ability to be used by any device, powertrain, or transmission in the vehicle. That gives you the ability to have many different strategies to reduce the vehicle’s CO2. Beyond this, it falls into the hands of the truck OEMs to figure out how they want to optimize it even further. In the end, we want to give our customers a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Cameras, radar lead the way forward

Dynamic eHorizon receives environment data both via Internet sources and through vehicle sensors such as Continental’s radar and camera units. These multi-tasking components form the basis for a range of automated driving functions. Cameras are used for functions such as lane departure warning or traffic sign recognition. Long-range radar systems form the basis for emergency braking assistants and other functions while significantly reducing the risk of rear-end collisions.

To build its 3D object detection solutions, Continental uses radar sensors, camera sensors, stereo cameras, and Surround View systems. Not only do these eliminate the blind spot and other problems, but in the near future, it will also be possible to replace exterior vehicle mirrors with cameras like the ProViu Mirror shown in the Continental display at IAA. The intelligent algorithms implemented in driver-assistance systems make their decisions solely on the basis of comprehensive information about the vehicle environment and consequently optimize driving safety. Continental contends that unlike the human mind, electronic circuitry never gets tired or anxious.

Although driver-assistance systems are already authorized to take over a number of driving tasks, the driver must still be in full control of the vehicle and continues to be responsible for it. In the longer term, Continental sees the driver taking on a transport management role with a more extensive range of tasks, rewarded with more attractive compensation. However, the necessary legal framework must be in place before this is possible. If the technical and legal requirements for automated driving are fulfilled during the coming decade, then Continental sees a bright future for automated commercial vehicles.

“Technological progress is extremely promising and is bringing the goal of fully automated driving within our grasp. The greatest hurdle lies in the fact that the legal constraints still have to be adapted to reflect these advances,” offered Ruf.

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