"Design creates something out of the ordinary and makes a major contribution to shaping the brand image in the public eye" – this statement used by Mercedes-Benz to define its design philosophy isn't relevant just for its vehicles. The bipolarity of intelligence and emotion, which are fundamental to the brand, is evident also in the way the company preserves and presents its history, while also allowing a glint into the future of mobility.
We are talking about the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Stuttgart, incidentally, is home to two iconic automobile brands – Daimler AG and Porsche – and is also the birthplace of leading automotive supplier, the Bosch Group, which was set-up in 1886 by Robert Bosch as a "Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering." Mahle is another large global supplier that is headquartered in Stuttgart.
The city is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany, and lies at the centre of the historic region of Swabia. It is often referred to as the "cradle of the automobile", as the automobile and motorcycle was invented in Stuttgart by Karl Benz in 1886. The automobile was subsequently industrialised in 1887 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach at the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (Daimler Motors Corporation), which they founded to manufacture engines and vehicles.
We were recently invited by Bosch to Germany for an understanding of the technological progress the group has made, as well as to offer an insight into the future developments and innovation in the automotive sector.
On the agenda was a trip to the Mercedes-Benz Museum, located at Mercedesstraße, right next to the Daimler factory and a stone's throw away from the Mercedes-Benz Arena, home to the German Bundesliga (football league) club VfB Stuttgart.
The Bosch Group's journey started almost in parallel to the birth of Mercedes-Benz. The imprint of Bosch components and systems can be seen in numerous exhibits in the museum, indicating how the innovative achievements of Bosch have contributed to the history of the automobile. Moreover, it reflects well on the extraordinary cooperation between the two global giants in the automotive history.
This feature is an attempt to offer you a deep dive into the history of both these German companies. Read on.
The museum is designed like a double helix with a clover leaf pattern. Like the exhibits it houses – 160 vehicles and over 1,500 displays – the museum itself reflects innovation in every sense. It is claimed to be the only museum in the world that can document in a single continuous timeline of about 130 years of auto industry history, right from the first product created in 1886. Designed by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel, the museum was opened in 2006. The shell of the museum is made of glass and aluminium. What is exhibited over nine floors, and 16,500 sq m area, is utter delight for not just an auto enthusiast but anyone with a remote interest in history.
First up, we stepped into a lift designed like a space pod, but called a 'time machine' by our guide. Indeed, the lift took us nine floors and 34 m above the ground to 1886, the year the company was born. The first exhibit you see is that of a horse, indicating – you guessed it right – one horsepower! Take a right, and you are in a legends room that chronicles the first set of automobiles ever made from 1886 through 1900.
Benz Patent Motor Car – the first automobile (1885 – 1886)
Karl Benz developed the first stationary gasoline engine – a one-cylinder, two-stroke unit – and ran that for the first time on New Year's Eve 1879, records Daimler history. In 1885, he completed his dream project of creating a lightweight, two-seater car, powered by a compact high-speed single-cylinder four-stroke gasoline engine that produced 0.75 hp of power. The engine was installed horizontally at the rear of the vehicle, which was built on a tubular steel frame, with differential and three wire-spoked wheels.
The vehicle also included an automatic intake slide, a controlled exhaust valve, high-voltage electrical vibrator ignition with spark plug, and water/thermo siphon evaporation cooling. Interestingly, this vehicle had no steering. The patent Benz received for his "vehicle powered by a gas engine" under patent number 37435 may be regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile, notes the company.
Daimler Single-Cylinder Engine, the Grandfather Clock
Daimler's Grandfather Clock was the world's first small high-speed internal combustion engine to run on gasoline. It weighed 92 kg only, yet was powerful enough to drive a vehicle. The patent for this engine was filed in 1885. The unit shown here is a more powerful version from 1886, with a displacement of 462 cc and peak power of about 1.08 hp. The epithet 'Grandfather Clock' was given because of the way the engine looked.
The Daimler Reitwagen (riding wagon) or Einspur (single track) was made by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1885, and is widely recognised as the first gasoline internal combustion motorcycle in the world. The exhibit at the museum is a replica of the original Reitwagen, which was destroyed in the Cannstatt fire that razed the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft Seelberg-Cannstatt plant in 1903.
The 264 cc engine is an air-cooled four-stroke single crank start unit, with a top speed of 11 km/h. It produced 0.5 hp @ 600 rpm and was mated to a single-speed, belt drive transmission in 1885. In 1886, it received a two-speed, belt primary, pinion gear final drive. In all, the Reitwagen weighed about 90 kg.
Built in 1893, the Benz Victoria was Karl Benz's first four-wheeled automobile. It was a fundamentally new design, made possible by the kingpin steering system improved by Benz. The new design permitted the two front wheels to assume different cornering radii and therefore the vehicle to negotiate bends more safely. This single-cylinder, 1,726 cc engine produced about 2.96 hp at 450 rpm, and could attain a top speed of 18 km/h.
Daimler Vis-à-Vis Belt-Driven Car
The Daimler Riemenwagen, built in 1896, was the first Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft model to be mass produced, with about 150 of them being made. This featured a two-cylinder, 1,060 cc engine that produced 4.5 hp at 740 rpm. The Vis-à-Vis car featured three important inventions – the Phoenix engine, the spray nozzle carburettor and belt-drive.
10/40 hp Mercedes Sport-Zweisitzer (Two-Seater)
World War I had put an end to manufacturing of cars at the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. In 1923, new passenger cars – the 10/40 hp Mercedes and the 6/25 hp sister models were made. These were the world's first standard-production passenger cars with supercharged engines. The supercharger, still called 'blower' in 1923, supplied the small displacement engine with more air, thereby temporarily boosting output from 40 hp to 65 hp. These cars, featuring a four-cylinder engine, achieved top speed of 110 km/h.
Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS
The 40 hp Mercedes-Simplex is the oldest existing Mercedes today. It was the direct successor of the 35 hp Mercedes designed by Wilhelm Maybach, considered to be the first automobile of the modern age. The 'Simplex' name is related to the relative ease with which it handled for the period. This four-cylinder, 6,785 cc car was built in 1902. The engine peaked at about 1,100 rpm and achieved a top speed of 80 km/h.
Mercedes-Benz 500 K Spezial-Roadster
In 1936, the company made the 500 K for the rich and beautiful. Together with the representative Grand Mercedes, the elegant 500 K sports car was the brand's showpiece in the 1930s. The 500 K got eight different bodywork versions, but the special roadster version show here was the most appealing. It was powered by an eight-cylinder 5,018 cc engine that delivered approximately 100 hp (160 hp with a supercharger). Top speed was rated at 160 km/h. This car was considered the most elegant looking vehicle of that time, and at a price of about € 98,000, it was also the most expensive! In total, Mercedes-Benz produced 342 units of this car across all versions.
Mercedes-Benz 260 D Pullman-Limousine
This was the world's first diesel-engined passenger car from large scale production. This was an economical car at that point as it consumed less fuel. The four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2,545 cc peaked at about 45 hp. In the Pullman sedan version, the 260 D was the ideal taxi and also in great demand as a sedan for long distance travel. This vehicle was in production for a period between 1936 and 1940. A total of 1,967 units were made.
The 300 was the fastest and biggest German-built production car in 1951. It followed the tradition of the Grand Mercedes and quickly became the most important status car of the young federal republic. The 2,996 cc engine with four cylinders achieved a top speed of 160 km/h and the peak power was rated at 113 hp @ 4,600 rpm. The four-door 300 models, produced between 1951 and 1954, were often referred to as Adenauers after Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé
Presented in 1954, this 300 SL production sports car was based on the successful completion version of 1952. Its space frame weighed just 50 kg, but was particularly sturdy. However, the structure didn't permit fitment of normal doors because of the high frame side members. With its characteristic upward-opening doors, this dream car of the 1950s popularly became known as the Gullwing. The company produced 1,400 units of the car between 1954 and 1957. A top speed of 250 km/h, 212 hp of peak output at 5,800 rpm were some of the other core characteristics of the car.
There was a radical change in the appearance and construction of Mercedes-Benz cars in the 1950s. The three-box design with a self-supporting body, space frame and flat radiator grill were some of the hallmark features of this transition into a new era. Other changes in form and design included the cab-over-engine and short-nose designs.
Mercedes-Benz O 303 Reise-Omnibus
Mercedes-Benz introduced a series of buses in 1974, setting a new standard in comfort and safety in touring coaches. This model, the O 303 Colonia Reisen, featured a V8 engine that displaced 12,763 cc and peaked at about 252 hp. Beginning in 1980, rollover tests were performed with these buses, which eventually led to the development of rigid body skeletons for buses and coaches. This model also led the way in active safety. In 1981, it became the first bus in the world to be fitted with an ABS. This series of buses continued to be produced till 1992, with the company making 25,778 units in total.
Mercedes-Benz 190 E
In 1982, Mercedes-Benz extended its medium-sized car range with the introduction of a third car series – the 190 and 190 E. It soon came to be known as the Baby Benz. Owing to low wind resistance and low weight, the Baby Benz consumed comparatively less fuel. Despite its compact dimensions, it was just as safe and comfortable as the larger Mercedes cars. This model from 1984, could achieve a top speed of 195 km/h, powered by a four-cylinder 1,997 cc, 120 hp engine. The company produced 638,180 units of these cars between 1982 and 1993.
Mercedes-Benz 500 SL
The gallery that houses vehicles used by celebrities and world figures offers a fascinating sight. This Mercedes-Benz 500 SL was acquired by Princess Diana, the wife of the Prince of Wales, in December 1991. She thus became the first member of the royal British family to drive a foreign car privately. However, this didn't go down well with the government, trade unions and industry in Great Britain, as a result of which she had to return the vehicle in September 1992.
Mercedes-Benz 230 G Popemobile
The Mercedes-Benz Museum notes that the 230 G Popemobile is perhaps the most famous Mercedes product belonging to a VIP. Built in 1980 to protect Pope John Paul II from wind and rain during his visit to Germany, the bodywork of this vehicle was furnished with bulletproof glazing following an assassination bid on him in May 1981. The custom-built unit was based on the Mercedes-Benz cross-country vehicle. Only two such units were ever built.
Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Staatslimousine
In 1963, Mercedes-Benz presented a new prestige car – the 600. This fully armoured state limousine with a raised roof was built in 1965 as a unique specimen for the company's own car fleet. For over 30 years, this vehicle carried Kings, Chancellors, and Presidents on state visits to Germany. The company made only two of these limousines. Also on display is a Mercedes-Benz ML 320 [W163] featured in the movie 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park'.
Mercedes-Benz C 111
At the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September 1969, Mercedes-Benz presented the C 111 – the "test lab on wheels" – with its wedge-shaped body and upward-opening gullwing doors. The body consisted of fibre-glass reinforced plastic and was riveted and bonded to the steel frame-floor unit. It was also a test bed for the Wankel engine, which was a three-rotor unit, developing 280 hp, and one that achieved a top speed of 260 km/h – a remarkable feat for its time (1969). In 1970, a thoroughly revised version of the C 111 was shown at the Geneva Motor Show featuring a four-rotor Wankel engine with an output of 350 hp. The car accelerated from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 s and attained a top speed of 300 km/h. The record-breaking C 111-IV of 1979 came with further aerodynamic refinements, featuring distinctive spoilers, a changed front end and two tail fins. Its propulsion unit was a series-production 4.5 l V8 engine, enlarged to displace 4.8 l and to develop 500 hp. This version of the C 111-IV was no longer purely a research vehicle, but one that achieved top-class sporting performance. As such, it provided many insights that benefited series production. (Source: Daimler).
This 3 l diesel engine, fitted with an exhaust gas turbocharger, achieved an output of 115 hp. It was with this engine that in the same year, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SD (W116 series) became the first series production passenger car to feature a turbocharged diesel engine.
Mercedes-Benz 2, 5 l Rennwagen W 196 R
For the 1954 and 1955 Formula 1 seasons, Mercedes-Benz lined up two versions of the W 196 R. while the streamlined variant was selected for the high speed circuits of Reims, Berlin and Monza, the classic monoposto with open wheels got the vote for majority of the races, as it was better suited for twistier tracks. These cars had V8 engines that displaces 2,497 cc and produced about 286 hp at 8,500 rpm and clocked top speed of 275 km/h.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Fuel Cell
In 2010, Mercedes-Benz introduced the first series-produced electric car with fuel cell drive. The B-Class F-CELL, as the car was called, features an electric motor with a new-generation fuel cell drive that is compact, efficient, safe and fully suitable for everyday use, claims the company. The fuel cell generates the traction current on board, producing no pollutant emissions, but merely pure water. The car has a range of 400 km, achieves a top speed of 106 km/h and has a combined output of 136 hp.
One of the floors had the whole range of Mercedes-Benz racing cars, displayed on a circular banked platform, where sound is designed to mimic a race track. Simulations pods have also been installed in the area for visitors to get a feel of these racing machines.
SHALINI KAPOOR works with IBM
SUGANDHA SRIKANTESWARAN works with IBM
Automobiles in recent times have already started behaving like they are from the future. They give us details on our car and in some cases are connected to a back office via satellite (remember the OnStar support in GM Vehicles?). So what is changing now? One for sure, the adoption and belief in connected vehicles is increasing multi-fold and two, the impact and usage of connected vehicle is changing.
Imagine your car senses the mood you are in and plays music to suit that. Imagine your seats adjust temperature based on your body temperature. You and your friends are driving to a holiday destination and choose to follow each other, and then comes this long truck in between that you lose sight of each other’s car. At that point, the dashboard on your car pops up an app and says – Meera is two miles north and is already alerted of your position. And Meera, almost on cue, plays “Don’t worry, I am here” on your car.
You get a message on your mobile that your (electric) car needs a service and in an hour you get another message that it is serviced. You didn’t step out of the house or drive the car. But your car is connected. And if you are not yet on the electric models, the non-electric models are connected as well. The ECU data is made available through sensors to car vendors and dealers, who can take several actions: alert you on car maintenance, get an appointment book, alert dealer to stock certain parts for your car’s service and what not.
Recently, we watched the movie “Minority Report” on TV yet again, and the cars that were showcased didn’t look too far out in future. And today, we see automobile vendor bringing in adaptive driving in phases that will lead to driverless cars. Vehicle alert signals, fuel alert, traffic alerts, weather impact messages and a lot more are in works.
A lot is being put into the design of the dashboards, which by going mobile, is also aiding connectivity. The user experience strategy – be it your driving pattern, your choice of songs and destination – is being put to full test, and based on analysis done by the car, suggestions are made.
So, what are the building blocks of a connected vehicle? In our opinion, there should be a strong foundational framework that allows various devices to plug in and bring in data and applications or systems to act on the data. The underpinning for this to be successful will be connectivity/ Network, an ecosystem of device vendors and partners.
Let’s spend some time in understanding the basic framework of a connected car, (1). The first step is to connect all devices and sensors within the car, which emit data. Then there is a need to collect all the car data and manage it over a period of time. The car keeps generating data in volumes, for e.g. speed and location are continuously changing in a moving car. Analysis of this data is important for OEMs, suppliers, car dealers, users and even insurers, who might want to calculate insurance premiums based on driver behaviour analysis.
Several actions can be taken based on the data received from the car. Such data can be intimated back to the car dashboard. For example, when a certain car is running out of fuel, the data should be able to indicate the nearest petrol depot. Similarly, several applications can be made to control, manage and utilise the car data being generated, thus enabling a new breed of apps that helps control your car. Autonomous, intelligent and contextually aware apps can be created for the benefit of car users, car dealers and OEM suppliers, thus bringing in efficiency in their supply chains and improving customer service.
There are two important architectural decisions one needs to keep in mind, when designing a connected car solution:
- (i)Scalability of Platform
A single event (say, speed) is only 4 kb in size, but each sensor in the car generates several of these events and they need to be sent to the back-end for analysis. If there are thousands of such cars on the road, there needs to be a mechanism of accepting millions of these events in real time. Add to this the complexity of receiving data in real time and in a secure manner without any message getting lost. Further, the data in motion needs to be analysed in real time, and an action needs to be taken based on the analysis. Critical actions like emergency responses and accident detection do not need any time lag. The need of collecting huge amounts of data in real time and an analysis in real time warrants a highly scalable solution in place, which can scale from 20 cars to 20,000 cars.
Most OEMs do not want to start off with such highly scalable platform, as they are still running pilots of connected cars and are testing waters on what services should be made available to consumers. In such a situation, a cloud platform offers flexibility, allowing a manufacturer to start small but grow big as the adoption rates of connected cars services grow up, and customers become more mature to start paying for these services.
But a pure infrastructure cloud solution might not be sufficient enough as the need of quickly creating Internet of Things (IoT) apps on the fly will decide the success of solution. This brings us to the second important architectural decision.
- (ii)Ease of creating apps
The app developer should be able to quickly choose from a mix of services and create simple apps that work with car data. Responsiveness to consumer demands can be met only if there are easy methods available to choose database services, mobile services, analytics services, and rules services, thus enhancing the speed of creating apps.
Can we create an app, which finds the nearest coffee shop based on the location of the car and prompts it on the car dashboard, in say 10 min? Can we tune this app further to send alerts to the coffee shop, which enables discount coupons to be sent to car driver's mobile, in 5 min? A true platform as a service does give this capability and hence it’s important to choose a cloud platform that also enables quick app creations.
Lot of vendors are creating point solutions on connected car, but it’s imperative for them to choose a cloud platform that has multiple services available, so that more value can be drawn from existing services. Also, this gives the start-ups a scalable platform to bank on and a flexibility to grow as clients' demands grow.
The Ford Motor Company is originally an American multinational corporation as the automaker was founded by Henry Ford in June 1903. Ford introduced methods for largescale manufacturing of cars and large-scale management of an industrial workforce using elaborately engineered manufacturing sequences typified by moving assembly lines. Henry Ford's methods came to be known around the world as Fordism by 1914.
Every time there's a mention of the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, the first image in the minds of most connoisseurs is that of Arnold Schwarzenegger riding the iconic cruiser in the movie Terminator 2. The company has now started local assembly of the bike at its plant in Bawal, Haryana, and we decided to ride and bring to you a report on the bike in the wake of a slew of modern cruisers in the market.
Being part of the Softail family lends the Fat Boy with a unique design, which bears resemblance to the look of the hardtail choppers from the 1960s. What this means in common man's language is that motorcycles from the Softail family have a visually discreet rear suspension, with the springs and shocks arranged along the length of the motorcycle and under the transmission. Clearly, the Fat Boy hasn't undergone a massive design overhaul over the past few decades, but only an evolution, which is perfectly fine, given the timeless design it already has.
The phrase "the best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome", isn't uncommon to a motorcyclist. And for anyone who can connect with this, the Fat Boy will overwhelm you with its chrome bits, which in our view has more surface area than the painted bits. The drilled metal wheels add further to the character of this motorcycle.
The engine powering the Fat Boy is the long-serving Twin Cam 103 engine, which is a dazzlingly good unit to look at. The V-twin engine, as its name suggests, displaces 1,690 cc (103 cubic inches) and offers 132 Nm of torque @ 3,500 rpm. Harley-Davidson doesn't reveal power output generally but the Twin Cam engine definitely has lots of it. Low-end torque is ample, making the Fat Boy very easy to ride in any sorts of conditions.
Thanks to a lightweight piston, power delivery is smooth and linear and there are hardly any unwanted vibrations unless one pins it and holds on to the red line.
The air-cooled engine, with its retro look doesn't miss out on using modern technology, especially that of computers. The Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection enables a crisp and precise throttle response, which makes overtaking easier. Overall acceleration is strong and the healthy torque means that breaking the traction between the rear tyre and road only takes a slightly quick twist of the throttle. Once the rear wheel is free of the boundaries of grip, the near endless torque sensation increases the fun significantly and even at this time the Fat Boy remains fairly manageable, thanks to a good chassis and low centre-of-gravity.
Sending this power to the wheels is a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission, which offers a good spread of ratios. The gearbox is smooth to operate and hardly gave us any reasons to complain except the hard-to-find neutral at times. Sixth is a typical overdrive ratio and felt fine to slot into only at above 100 km/h. Engage the top cog considerably earlier thinking the torque will compensate and the engine will let you know of its unpleasant state in a mild manner.
The exhaust note left us wanting for more given the engine's performance. There's a pleasant sound but it's the lack of an authoritative note that leaves the experience somewhat incomplete. There's a quick fix though in the form of a Screamin Eagle exhaust and we've heard the Fat Boy with it, and it sounds infinitely pleasing.
Given the air-cooled architecture of the engine, we expected quite a bit of heat around the legs, especially in traffic, but somehow it was in control at all times. Some probing revealed that this is possible due to the employment of a smart heat management system, which limits firing in the rear cylinder, reducing the heat a bit. This feature is software-driven and can be turned on/ off by the company. We haven't been able to confirm if it is active in India but given the hot temperatures here, the probability of it being active is high.
At a wet weight of over 330 kg, the Fat Boy is pretty much what its name sounds like. But once on the move, it's quite contrary. Deeper the water, it's easier to swim and heavier the motorcycle, more manageable it is when on the move – old saying held true by the Fat Boy, owing to its well-balanced chassis, low stance and a long wheelbase of 2,396 mm. The low-seat height of 690 mm makes it easier to handle the mass of the motorcycle at slow speed.
We were surprised with the ease that the Fat Boy manages to lean into long turns and negotiating a series of them too doesn't unsettle the balance unless one's going for outright speed, something the bike isn't made for. Although Softails aren't the best Harleys over corners, one can quite easily reach the limit, the arrival of which will be signalled through an unpleasant sound of the footboards scraping the tarmac.
With a lean angle exceeding 26 ° on both sides, one can manage to enjoy some bit of corner carving but stay aware as tightening your line won't be possible from this position in decreasing radius corners. At the end of the day, it's a slow-steering motorcycle and demands respect and some experience from the rider. Be gentle with it and there are rewards in the corners too, exactly what one expects from a motorcycle and the bond that works between man and machine.
Adding to the safety is the ABS, which works well without cutting in too early. The brakes themselves though were the only bit that felt out of place on an otherwise decent handling package. The single disc set-up on both ends feels under-equipped and limits the rider from exploiting the engine's limits freely. There's more to it though, as we discovered through extensive riding at fast pace over a period of more than three days. With a low centre-of-gravity and a rear-biased weight-distribution, the rear brake works better than expected. Step on it harder than the usual tendency along with a strong yank on the front lever and the Fat Boy manages to brake fine. Feedback is better from the rear brake but is almost negligible from the front.
OTHER NOTABLE BITS
Beyond the powertrain too, the Fat Boy continued to impress us with a long list of technologies, which add to the overall experience of a rider and not just to the pages of a brochure. One such feature is the Harley-Davidson Smart Security System, which is software-based. The system is easy to use due to a key fob, which makes ignition keyless as long as the fob is with the rider. Walking away from the bike will result in a non-operational ignition system. Locking the handle though would require one to use the key manually.
Another interesting bit on the Fat Boy was the self-cancelling turn signal system, which takes into account lean angle and speed in addition to the handlebar position. As a result, the system worked like a charm even in the manic Gurgaon traffic.
Local assembly of the Fat Boy at the company's plant in Bawal, Haryana, has resulted in a competitive pricing of the product at Rs 15.08 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. For the experience the Fat Boy offers, it's priced pretty well. The overall riding experience it offers is essentially a combination of the best of old school looks and modern technology, without going overboard on either. The Fat Boy keeps the rider at the helm of things, something we miss at times in the newer cruisers. The brakes are a good example of this character. Continue exploring the motorcycle and there are good chances of you loving your bike more a few months after purchasing it than from the day it was bought on. Add to this package an iconic past, one gets a proud heritage to revel in for as long as you hold on to that Fat Boy.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
The next big evolutionary step for the individual mobility of tomorrow is the connected vehicle.
DIPL.-ING. (FH) HELMUT MATSCHI is a member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and Head of the Interior division.
Some of the major challenges we face worldwide are directly related to the car. Issues surrounding peak oil, on-going climate change, and an impending collapse of transport systems in a number of places, for example, can only be tackled by factoring in individual mobility. Technical evolution provides part of the answer. It goes without saying that vehicles need to become even more economical and much cleaner. Progress on this front is being made, for example, with engine and transmission technology as well as by combining efficient combustion engines with diverse forms of electrification.
However, if a person is on the lookout for solution approaches that allow for progress in leaps and bounds, beyond the realms of continuous evolution, they will find it with the Internet of Everything (IoE). It provides a range of solution approaches for traffic optimisation right up to automated driving.
The smartphone is leading the way. A device that was originally intended for wireless long-distance calls is today the platform for everything from shopping and social contact to reading and online banking. The Internet as the fundamental technology of the 21st century is transforming products. Next, we will see the car being incorporated into the IoE. The phrasing here is deliberate. The Internet will not be coming into the car, but rather the car will become part of the IoE.
Half of the infrastructure is already in place. Modern vehicles have their own networked IT structure, and in highly equipped models this can include close to 100 small computers in the form of control units. Nowadays, cars drive around with over one gigabyte of software on board. But even more importantly, cars are increasingly detecting their surroundings. Sensors such as cameras and radars are observing what is happening around the car and are interpreting this data to assist drivers at the wheel. Intelligent cruise control systems (also known as adaptive cruise control) ensure a smoother – and thereby also safer and more economical – traffic flow when there is congestion, without any input from the driver.
Other driver assistance systems are activated as soon as the person at the wheel loses concentration, and, for example, does not notice the pedestrian in front of them in time.
Drivers Are Becoming A Community
The innovations listed as examples are still based predominantly on the level of perception of individual vehicles, and therein lies a limitation. Even sensors have a limited range. They often cannot "see" farther than humans. This is where the second half of the infrastructure comes into play. It, too, is already in place.
Connectivity is becoming standard. According to estimates, back in 2013 the global IoE included around 15 bn products. By 2020, this number could reach over 50 bn. And why should the car of all things be left out? It is not a long way off becoming a reality at all. So far, Continental alone has equipped around 26 mn vehicles with Internet connectivity.
The connected car combines two principles. The first is derived from connecting itself. It is the principle of a community – a digitally connected, virtual community of users. The second is the principle of modern control systems, which automatically adjust themselves to minimise waste. This is the vision: once vehicles have been networked with each other and with an infrastructure, they can send and receive valuable data. This includes data on road conditions, accidents, traffic jams, etc. in addition to safety-relevant information relating to routes and speed. This would allow us to anticipate trouble spots such as scenes of accidents but also dangerous road conditions such as black ice.
The sensor-assisted knowledge of a driver community like this would allow us to generate an electronic horizon (eHorizon), from which we would all benefit. This could allow vehicles to invoke strategies in advance to avoid waste (including traffic jams and damage due to accidents), for example.
The IoE Is Transforming Industries
The IoE is a powerful technology for the car. However, using it requires that the car be brought into the digital world in a suitable form. On the technical side, this means meeting two key challenges. The services provided as a result of connectivity must assist the driver and not distract them, and, much like the rest of in-car technology, they must be trustworthy and reliable. The core technologies for making this a reality are the following:
o The in-car IT structure, including the connectivity technology – the backend structure for interpreting, compacting, and providing large amounts of data (big data); and
o The actual data (the content) from which the use of connectivity arises.
If the IoE is to allow for automated vehicles by 2020, in addition to an evolution of technology a legal evolution will also be necessary. After all, by this point vehicles will frequently have to make decisions entirely independently. So as to equip vehicles with the means necessary to connect them to the Internet, previously separate industries are coming together. This is because the IoE calls for partnerships that also extend beyond the car itself, much like the range of a sensor.
Continental has formed three such major alliances within 18 months. The topic of big data analysis in the backend will be looked at together with IBM. Information on the surrounding area will come from Nokia HERE. The expertise of Cisco will be incorporated to ensure secure connectivity. These alliances will give rise to applications that are based on connectivity.
In the eHorizon, for example, a fusion of navigation data, vehicle data, and information on the surrounding area is essential. In Silicon Valley, USA, Continental is also establishing its own business unit called Intelligent Transportation Systems with a view to developing more connectivity-based solutions for safe, clean, and comfortable driving. And the connected vehicle is the key.