Cockpit of future more versatile and connected: Continental

by Pradeep Chakraborty

Every new year comes with the footnote: what’s going to be the driver for an industry? Alright, let’s start with driving, or, shall we say, automobiles!

Continental AG is a German automotive manufacturing company. It specializes in brake systems, interior electronics, automotive safety, powertrain and chassis components, tachographs, tires, and other parts for the automotive and transportation industries.

Automated driving, anyone?
So, how is the situation with automated driving today? Has it, at least, passed the safety tests? Alexander Klotz, Head, Continental’s Technical Center, India, said that while fully automated driving (AD) is still far, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) is enabling the possibility towards AD. It is gaining popularity among the end consumers and developers. Safety becomes a crucial parameter when lives are involved.

Alexander Klotz

“We cannot have a system that is 99 percent safe. We need systems that are 100 percent reliable. When it comes to automated driving, improvement in radars, Lidars, camera technologies, ABS and ESC, redundant braking systems are helping in creating safer systems. We have various passive safety modules that ensure an additional layer of safety. Safety tests from automation levels 3 to 5 are already undergoing, and the results are very promising.”

Cockpit of future
How will the car’s cockpit of the future look like? Which functions will be available?

According to him, the three — ‘Automated, Connected, Electrified and Shared’ technologies, are shaping the future of mobility. They are transforming the traditional cockpit into holistic human-machine interfaces that cater to the driver and passenger by providing driver information and entertainment. The cockpit of the future will be more versatile and connected with the surrounding environment to provide both the driver and passengers a completely different experience in terms of personalization and safety.

The general industrial consensus is that the cockpit of the future will most likely consist of an Integrated Interior Platform (IIP) – a human-machine interface that combines various displays, such as glass surfaces with a head-up display (HUD) and central console cross-domain units etc.

The displays interact with hand-motion gestures and IIP can easily learn how the driver feels and wants. And, if the vehicle is fully automated, the driver can sit back and relax, as the whole cockpit could be transformed into an entertainment center. The possibilities are infinite.

What about haptics?
Let us look at the new haptic elements being introduced.

He said: “We are continuously working on haptic control elements, such as touchpads, control panels, including overhead control panels for the intuitive operation of various functions. We fit haptic control elements with additional components and functions, including active haptic feedback, display modules, proximity detection and near-field gestures.”

Next, has Continental been able to make LiDAR work? Klotz noted: “We started working on LiDAR about a year ago in Bangalore. Now, we have a large team of engineers working on the technology. To give an overview, the signals from LiDAR help in object detection and classification. The signals help in building safer systems by being able to recognize different objects, pedestrians, lanes etc., on the road. This becomes critical when we talk about ADAS or automated driving.”

The LiDARs give good depth perception and helps in accurate classification of objects. LiDAR emits rapid laser signals which bounce back and measure the distance between the objects and vehicles. This data is fed into Continental’s robust algorithms that are used to detect pedestrians, cyclists, lanes etc. This data is then validated by our teams and checked for reliability.

Focus on advanced platforms
Further, how are advanced platforms continue to breakthrough into automotive? Which platforms, and why?

He added that globally, as well as in India, the automotive industry is undergoing a major transformation. The focus towards electrification, safety, clean mobility, connected mobility, etc., has driven new technologies across the industry.

“We, at Continental, have always worked on technologies for the future, among which, a few breakthrough technologies have been introduced in the market in 2019.

“In the year 2019, we saw an increased demand in ABS and airbags. The next level in the braking system technology will be ESC and Autonomous Emergency Brakes (AEB). ESC further enhances vehicle safety and provides increased comfort to the driver. ESC is a prerequisite for further safety technologies like Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

“Another technology is Integrated Interior Platform (IIP). The IIP combines various displays, such as glass surfaces with a head-up display (HUD) and central console cross-domain units, which shows all the actions and functions that both the driver and the vehicle can perform. The displays interact with hand-motion gestures to enable maps or other elements to be shown.”

Information is rapidly collected from various sources and later presented in an easy-to-read way that always keeps into account both the state of driving and drivers. Moreover, information can be re-arranged to be shown on the selected display and interacted with using only one device. IIPs are transforming cockpits across the globe completely.

The Occupants Safety Monitoring technology (OcSM) is an innovative solution that enhances vehicle’s passive safety system. OcSM monitors the environment with the help of combination of sensors such as camera, data from seat sensors etc. This creates a complex sensor fusion model, through which optimum deployment strategies for the restraint systems are spontaneously calculated for each occupant.

For instance, the deployment of airbags can be timed by reading the driver and passenger positioning and optimize its protective effect. In an automated driving situation, the driver will essentially move from focusing on road to something else, here is where OcSM will have vital role to play by ensuring optimum restraint safety, based on cabin situation.

Changes in 2020
Finally, what are the changes likely in cars and commercial vehicles in 2020?

According to Klotz, the major trends that will characterize the automotive sector in 2020 would be vehicle safety, electrification and connectivity.

“A greater use of electric vehicles is, for sure, the main trend we can expect in the coming year. The automotive sector will see an increased interest in electrification strategies with new and improved hybrid and electric vehicles.

“Connectivity between vehicles is also expected to grow significantly. Vehicles will start to feature Wi-Fi and connectivity tools allowing it to communicate with nearby vehicles and the environment.

Further, new functions, such as HMI, will gain popularity in the cockpit of the future. These will allow better collection and display of data for a better driving experience and driver satisfaction. While the safety technologies will continue to gain much needed attention with technologies such as ESC, the AEB and the other ADAS products will tend to become more of a standard feature in most of the medium segment cars.

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