GERMANY – The automotive supplier Continental and the BMW Group are pooling their development capacities to define the long-term prerequisites for series introduction of highly automated driving on European freeways. In January 2013, the two companies signed an agreement to jointly develop an electronic co-pilot for this purpose. The overarching aim of the research partnership is to pave the way to highly automated driving functions beyond the year 2020.
“Automated driving is a key element in future mobility. It will significantly enhance safety, comfort and efficiency on the roads,” said Dr. Elmar Degenhart, Chairman of the Executive Board of Continental. “In collaboration with BMW Group, we will work out an overarching technical concept that enables highly automated freeway driving in a way that is safe, attractive, and affordable for end customers. We are enriching the project with our systems expertise in the areas of vehicle safety, driver information, and powertrain technology,” he added.
“The joint research project with BMW Group addresses the enormous need for the kind of R&D required to realize the vision of automated driving. After all, driving cannot be automated overnight. It is, much more, a gradual process, stretching out over a period of over ten years,” Degenhart continued.
Vehicle automation is set to be rolled out in stages, starting with partially automated driving from 2016, high levels of automation from 2020 and – ultimately – fully automated systems available from 2025.
The cooperative project between the BMW Group and Continental runs through to the end of 2014. Several prototype test vehicles equipped for automated driving are set to be built in the course of these two years. The research prototypes will then be made available to a select team of trained test participants. Employing close-to-production technology, testing will involve analyzing highly automated driving functions not only on German freeways but on freeways in other European countries as well. The tests will cover all the challenges freeways pose, such as interchanges, toll plazas and roadworks.
As research partner, Continental will make key contributions in several areas of the project. The company will provide the driving environment sensor systems needed to operate the test vehicles, for example. The aim here is to create a high-performance model of the vehicle environment. This will involve the use of both long-range radar and camera systems already in series production at Continental.
To ensure incident-free use of the test fleet at all times, Continental will develop a safety architecture that allows for stable operation of test vehicles even if malfunctions occur. In addition to helping with the construction of the test vehicles, the company will play a key role in defining both the functional and the electrical/electronic architecture (E/E architecture). Continental will be involved in the development of functions and in conducting the necessary backend research under BMW Group’s guidance.
Today, more than 1,300 specialists at Continental are already working on the basics of automated driving. They deal specifically with driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control and emergency brake assistance. These make use of sophisticated technology like cameras and infrared and radar systems to record the vehicle environment in various driving situations, thereby alerting, assisting, and relieving the driver.
In 2013, Continental is investing more than EUR100 million in R&D. Continental expects vehicle automation to deliver improved safety, greater freedom for the driver, and improved vehicle efficiency.
For more information, visit www.conti-online.com.