Continental Automotive Group (conti-online.com) has a three-fold product and technology strategy that focuses on safety, sustainability, and information management. Its developers are focusing on new electronic systems and technologies that will help drivers achieve accident and injury-free driving (zero accidents), preserve resources and protect the environment (zero emissions), and stay connected with intelligent information management (Always On).
Chassis & Safety
Imagine a day when sensors and driver assistance systems are so advanced that they prevent accidents entirely. This is what Continental is aiming for with what it calls "Vision Zero," a safety philosophy in which collisions are entirely prevented, or in the event of an accident, no one is seriously injured. While preventative systems are becoming somewhat prevalent on high-end vehicles, its Chassis & Safety division is working to develop affordable safety technology for all vehicle categories.
For example, it has developed the MK100 anti-lock braking system (ABS) that can be scaled for various applications (from motorcycles to sedans) and is readily integrated into ESC systems because of its modular design. Safety and assistance functions such as Active Rollover Protection (ARP), Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) can also be configured with the MK 100.
Another practical step toward Vision Zero is Continental's safety concept known as "ContiGuard," which uses driver assistance systems, Human-Machine Interface (HMI), and safety telematics to anticipate and avoid accidents. For example, its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) use intelligent electronics such as cameras, infrared sensors, or radar to provide safety assistance in the form of audible, vibrating, or visual warnings. There's Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), which can prevent rear-end collisions by activating an automatic braking system if the car ahead comes within a dangerous stopping distance and the driver of the following car isn't taking action. Its key technology is an optical sensor that uses infrared beams to monitor up to 32 ft. in front of a vehicle. If the closing distance becomes dangerous, an automatic system fully applies the brakes if the driver fails to react.
Emergency Steer Assist (ESA) is a collision-avoidance system that guides the driver in maneuvering around obstacles when he/she has no time to brake. The system is similar to EBA in that it uses radar sensors to "see" when the preceding vehicle comes within a dangerous distance. It will then warn the driver (either with a beep or pedal vibration) that he/she is approaching at a dangerous distance. If the driver has gone beyond the last point to brake and jerks the steering wheel to the right or left, the system calculates an optimum trajectory line and applies the recommended steering torque in the wheel to guide the driver back to a straight position. During this process, the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is also engaged in order to stabilize the vehicle and keep it from spinning out. While the EBA has been available since 2008, the ESA is expected to be in production by 2015.
Another component that is new to Continental's ContiGuard portfolio is the Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP). As an HMI electronic system, the AFFP uses vibration or counterforce in the acceleration pedal to encourage driving in a more fuel-efficient manner. For example, when driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, the accelerator vibrates twice (there is an electric motor that provides actuation) to indicate to the driver when to shift for purposes of fuel efficiency. What's more, it can work with a traffic light recognition camera and increase pedal resistance when approaching a red light so as to conserve fuel. When the light turns green, the AFFP decreases its resistance and the driver resumes his normal speed.
As part of its vision to reach zero emissions, Continental's powertrain division focuses on developing efficient systems and electronics for drive train components. For example, its Engine Systems business unit is currently developing a Piezo common-rail injector for passenger car diesel engines that ensures a more efficient combustion because of its ability to atomize fuel more finely and inject it more precisely. It features an injection pressure of 2,000 bar, and its closed-loop needle control allows for stable injection. The DI Solenoid Injector XL3 for gasoline direct injection is based on solenoid valve technology where the coil generates an electric current. The XL3 has a system pressure between 40 and 200 bar and a working flow range that is greater than 24 bar. Both injectors meet the Euro 6 emissions legislation, which will come into effect in September 2014.
The SK1/SK2 turbocharger is designed specifically for downsized gasoline engines to reduce CO2 emissions. The turbocharger is designed to allow the wastegate valve to be electromechanically adjusted using only the minimum amount of electrical power, thereby efficiently providing power. Continental is also developing a plug-in injection pump that can be plugged in to the engine's cylinder head. The pump has delivery pressures up to 1,800 bar, and it uses a new digital volume flow valve for controlling pressure and quantity. Production for the pump is set to begin in Q1 of 2013.
As things like apps, playlists, interactive displays, and navigation systems are becoming as common—even expected—as a steering wheel in one's car, it's important to display information in a way that is easily available and still allows the driver to remain focused on the road. Which is precisely the reasoning behind Continental's "Always On" vision—connecting the driver to his information and the car to its environment in a safe and convenient manner.
Continental's Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit is designing reconfigurable instrument clusters that include a high-resolution 12.3-in. color display with brilliant colors. The information displayed includes the speedometer, fuel gage, maps, and information from a driver assistance system, radio, or phone. The first reconfigurable instrument cluster to be launched in North America will appear in a 2011 MY vehicle. The plan for future instrument panels is to incorporate rotating 3D graphics, photo-realistic depictions, and menus that fade in and out.
Continental is also launching a new generation head-up display that uses almost 50% less installation space than the first-generation. The system projects a virtual image of the speed, navigation, and warning information from a driver assistance system onto the windshield. Placing the information directly in the driver's line of sight allows him to keep his eyes on the road.
As for infotainment and connectivity electronics, Continental and Nokia are collaborating on a new HMI technology called "Terminal Mode," which allows drivers to connect, display, and control mobile phone apps for navigation, social networking, and music through a dashboard display. Once the technology is embedded into a mobile phone and the automobile, users simply connect their phone to the car with a high-speed USB 2.0 connection, and content shown on the phone screen is replicated onto the dashboard display and controlled through touch screens and steering wheel controls.
Its Body & Security unit is producing new electronic systems that provide vehicle status information. Its Intelligent Tire Monitoring System (ITS)—set to launch in 2013—consists of a sensor that is fixed to the inside of each tire so that it is more protected than valve-stem devices. The sensor not only detects temperature and pressure but also measures load and tread depth. Its data is relayed to the vehicle and networked into other body control units, such as those for electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock braking (ABS). One cited advantage of taking multiple measures is that there are fewer false low-pressure warnings, and the vehicle's safety systems can adjust more effectively as tire conditions change.