Automated driving is likely to become a reality sooner than was anticipated a few years back. Globally, a large number of suppliers are developing solutions for driver assistance systems that could not only make roads safer, but ease out driving as well. Leading this trend is German automotive giant Continental. We caught up with Christian Senger, Senior Vice President, Systems & Technology, Automotive, and Spokesperson, Automated Driving, Continental to know more about the technologies developed by the company for automated driving, and its future.
Continental follows a lighthouse organisation structure for the development of automated driving technologies, Senger mentioned, where a small central group orchestrates all activities in the domain. This group then brings together all expertise within the company for collaborative work and joint projects on the various aspects of automated driving. These include environmental perceptions based on driver assistance systems (DAS), next generation human-machine interface (HMI) and fail operation activation, especially for braking in the safety and powertrain management.
Automated driving has evolved from DAS towards the customisation of systems in a vehicle, and it works in parallel with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), Senger said. The main focus of automated driving is in providing safety to the occupants of a vehicle through the self-intelligence of systems in the vehicle itself.
The industry in general is looking at three stages of automated driving – partial, highly automated and fully automated. Partially automated driving is only an assistance system, where monitoring is required and the driver needs to be able to take over the driving task at any moment. This system can assist in cases like stop-and-go driving in speeds up to 30 km/h, where there is no responsibility from the car.
Highly automated driving does not require monitoring of the system by the driver, but will need him to be able to take over driving task with lead time. Stop-and-go highway driving can benefit from this system. In the fully automated driving stage, no monitoring is required, nor does the driver need to take over the driving task. This system can be used in highway driving with speeds up to 130 km/h.
Continental has a clear roadmap for the adoption of the three stages of automated driving technologies, and expects these to roll out in 2016, 2020 and beyond 2025 respectively. Senger observed that while the 2016 timeline for the adoption of partially automated systems will apply to India too, the other systems do not seem to have a promising future here.
CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
In the development of technologies towards automated driving, the biggest challenge that developers like Continental faces is that of customer distrust. It is very difficult to convince customers to adopt assistance and automated driving systems, and make them give the control of their vehicles to electronic gadgets, Senger said. This can only be rectified by the use of high quality HMI solutions that engage the driver with the vehicle, and create continuous communication between them. Another answer to this issue is in the regular usage of DAS, which will enable people to experience these systems thoroughly and prepare them to begin using highly-automated driving systems.
Other important factors that slow down the application of advanced driving technologies include infrastructure challenges, government legislations, insurance company concerns, variations in traffic signs and high price of such technologies. While the first few challenges need to be taken up by authorities through the implementation of various policies, price factor is something that can be addressed by the manufacturers.
The issue of price can be tackled mainly by the integration of technologies and reducing the necessary amount of computing power for the same performance of a number of separate systems. This will ensure lower cost basis of the technology, said Senger, who added that the company is looking at investing in large-scale production of such technologies. The mass production of such systems will help drive down the price and enable such technology to find more widespread usage.
To begin with, automated driving would naturally be offered in mature markets, but Senger believes with the solutions available, it must be ensured that these technologies reach the mass-market segment. He added that companies developing automated driving solutions will require to provide a sustainable product portfolio for the mass adoption of these technologies.
R&D & TECH CENTRE INDIA
Continental's Tech Centre India (TCI) in Bangalore is of growing importance, and contributes majorly in the development of automated driving technology, noted Senger. He added that India is the melting pot of software talent, and that Continental has set-up its tech centre in the appropriate place.
There are 800 engineers working on R&D at the TCI, with contributors to project organisations that look into the most important technology challenges. These lighthouse organisations are created to identify solutions for pure electro-mobility, lowering CO2 emissions and automated driving. Continental currently has about 1,300 employees working on the R&D of assistance systems and automated driving, and spends over $ 100 mn on these systems annually, Senger said.
The company is looking to approach challenges in the future with the help of new partners in various fields. The company is looking at partnering with players in the IT segment, as well as with semiconductor suppliers for the future in vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and HMI solutions. Senger signed off by saying that core technology for solutions in DAS and advanced driving does not need to be freshly invented. Adjusting and combining existing technologies will suffice.
Text: Naveen Arul