Cost-Optimized Airbag Control Unit Scalable for Different Customer and Market Requirements

Nov 6, 2008

Safety for all: Modular technology from Continental enables the use of high-performance airbag systems even in cost-sensitive markets.

Frankfurt am Main, Germany. For the rapidly developing automobile markets in Asia and Eastern Europe in particular, the Chassis & Safety Division of the international automotive supplier Continental has developed a groundbreaking technology platform based on a modular structure for airbag control, named SPEED (Safety Platform for Efficient & Economical Design), that meets the highest safety standards in each of its three configuration levels. “The particular challenge lies in the fact that these markets are very cost-sensitive. But being reasonably priced cannot under any circumstances come at the expense of safety or long-term quality,” says Burkhard Ortmann, head of the Passive Safety segment. “With this in mind, low-cost products always presuppose high-tech development know-how in advance. Due to their scalability, they can be adjusted flexibly to the various requirements of vehicle manufacturers and to different market requirements.”

Modular structure: efficient, flexible, and cost-optimized

The automotive markets around the world vary considerably: While vehicles for Western European or North American buyers are equipped with a large number of airbags, the safety equipment in the emerging economies in Asia, for instance, is often limited to the driver’s airbag. With SPEED, Continental has developed an airbag control unit that is based on a modular structure and can be adjusted easily to the wishes of car manufacturers. The three-level concept covers the needs of all markets worldwide and allows carmakers to equip even entry-level models with a high-performance airbag system.

For all vehicle classes – one single modular airbag control unit. The plastic casing that houses the airbag control unit (ACU) can be equipped flexibly with various types of plug. This, in turn, makes it possible to adjust the electronics to the vehicle without any problem. The base variant, SPEED S, which is used in models including lower-cost compact cars, is designed to control front airbags, but optionally controls for side airbags can be installed in addition. The S module can control up to 14 components, such as airbags and seat belt tighteners. This means that SPEED offers a high level of flexibility, and with it, the ability to adjust the airbag control unit precisely to meet the manufacturer’s requirements while at the same time relying largely on identical technology, standardized interfaces, and components produced in large volumes. That not only offers cost advantages, but also short development times due to the rapid integration of the technology. The expanded levels of the platform, M and L, can control up to 30 components and can even incorporate rollover protection, in which the vehicle identifies the threat of rollover, as a basic expansion.

Affordable vehicles as a growth market: 70 percent growth in the next ten years

In the automotive sector, the low-cost vehicle segment is expected to see growth within the next decade – especially in the rising markets in Asia. Studies predict that by 2017, production of cars with prices of less than 10,000 euros each will rise from the current level of about 6.5 million pieces to around eleven million, with much of the increase taking place in India and China. That’s 70 percent growth. Considerable growth is also forecast for Eastern Europe and South America. “To meet this demand, our focus lies clearly on cost-optimized technology, not on high-end solutions,” Ortmann emphasized. “What people want is vehicles that are affordable, and yet safe and reliable.” Continental has aligned its strategies and products to these demands. “Our solution: We go into these markets directly and work locally to turn our comprehensive competence in vehicle technology into market-optimized components and systems.”

Press Release (MS-Word, 60 KB)

Press Image to the issue Airbag Control Unit in the Continental Media Center.

Nicole Geißler

External Communications


Division Chassis & Safety

Guerickestraße 7

60488 Frankfurt am Main

Phone: +49 69 7603-8492

Fax:     +49 69 7603-3945