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Continental actively pursues vehicle connectivity

Jun 28, 2013

  • The vehicle of the future will be part of the Internet of Everything
  • Continental is networking industries to make highly automated driving possible

Hanover. Not just for smartphones or computers, for more and more day-to-day objects connectivity is already a main selling proposition. Developments range from running shoes, which document training success online, through to the so-called smart home, which lets home-owner control its complete energy-management online. The international automotive supplier Continental also sees potential in connectivity. The connected vehicle will be a key subject of future developments. “Today, more and more new vehicle functions are already based on connectivity. To create innovative functions, we are linking vehicle components and systems ever more closely with one another and, at the same time, increasingly connecting the vehicle to the outside world,” explains Ralf Lenninger, head of the Strategy and Development department of Continental’s Interior division. Today, networked vehicle technology is already increasing safety and comfort and reducing power consumption. Drive control units communicate with safety functions and body electronics via data buses. Thus, for example, a rain sensor not only activates the wipers, it can also ensure that the electronic brake system adjusts to the wet conditions.

With Continental, the vehicle will be part of the “Internet of Everything” and form the basis of tomorrow’s intelligent transportation systems. Image download  

Networked infotainment and the human-machine interface of the future

Up to now, drivers have been able to experience vehicle connectivity with the outside world mainly in the field of infotainment. A USB interface or Bluetooth are already more or less standard. “If we take a look at the consumers behavior it becomes obvious: In the next few years, the connection of vehicle infotainment features to the Internet will become more and more widespread,” continues Lenninger. Connection to the Internet can be via the vehicle’s own telematics box or through integration of a smartphone. Standards such as Near Field Communication or wireless charging are part of a growing infrastructure to integrate smartphones more and more smoothly in vehicles. “For us, the decisive factor is always that we supply systems which offer drivers attractive functions and intuitive operation. The trend is moving towards merging the worlds of the vehicle and consumer electronics.

Continental’s concept vehicle recognizes driver distraction and is able to direct the driver’s attention towards a dangerous situation. Image download

We achieve this by picking up on impulses and adapting them to the special vehicle-based situation,” explains Lenninger. Continental is working on using smartphones not only for music streaming and phone communication, but also as the vehicle key, for personalizing the seat position or for navigation purposes. Especially for the emerging markets, Continental is developing an innovative instrument cluster, which uses smartphone GPS data and navigation software, but displays the navigation instructions directly in the instrument cluster. The Continental development engineers are going with diversity to satisfy the changing demands drivers make on human-machine interfaces (HMI). Thus it is not only for design reasons that development work is focusing on curved touch screens, touch pads with character recognition and haptic feedback, or 3D screens. At the end of the day, the operation of the functions has to be primarily aligned to driving safety. To reduce driver distraction, Continental is also working on a concept that links the driving situation and the driver’s attentiveness. In the “driver focus concept vehicle”, an infrared camera in the cockpit records the driver’s state of attention, and sensors in the driver assistance systems such as lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control detect a potentially hazardous situation. Both sources of information are integrated into an innovative HMI that uses a 360-degree LED light strip inside the vehicle to direct the driver’s attention directly to the hazardous situation. Thus distracted drivers are warned early about potential hazards.

Displays and touch-elements: Connectivity merges the user-experiences from the digital world with the vehicle. Image download  

Connectivity is the basis of future driving safety

Beyond the driving environment sensor system, connectivity to other vehicles and the cloud could directly contribute to driving safety already in the near future. The rain sensor, for example, would be able to tell other systems in the vehicle as well as other road users and the cloud whether or not there is precipitation along the way and, if so, how severe it is. In accordance with the Car2Car Communication Consortium, Continental foresees introduction of initial series applications starting in 2016. “With vehicle-to-X communication, we are basically expanding the sensing range of the vehicle’s own sensors by a cloud-based seventh sense. This makes the vehicle part of the Internet of Everything and creates the basis for an intelligent transport system with a whole new world of functions,” adds Lenninger. Online diagnostic services, parking space reservations or tailor-made insurance tariffs are just a few examples of the many possibilities. For fully automated vehicles, a real-time data carpet from the cloud providing exact information on the current traffic situation along the route ahead is one of the basics still to be developed. “In order to meet the requirements of a connected vehicle for fully automated driving, Continental will link different industries and is relying on a high-scaling IT infrastructure,” concludes Lenninger.