Continental is scaling up its activities in India by recently launching a new R&D centre at its Manesar facility to cater to global as well as domestic requirements for design & testing of brake systems. Auto Tech Review spoke to Prashanth Doreswamy, Managing Director, Continental Automotive India (Above) and Krishan Kohli, Head of Vehicle Dynamics, Continental India (Below) on the sidelines of the new facility launch to understand how the company intends to address the growing demand for safer roads in India.
The company’s Manesar facility was set-up in 2016 focussed on producing 1.5 mn callipers, boosters and drum brakes annually. It subsequently enhanced operations in hydraulic brake systems across India. In November 2016, the company had also set-up dedicated lines to manufacture up to 1.2 mn units of anti-lock brake (ABS) systems and electronic stability control (ESC) units annually.
Given the increasing awareness and acceptance of safety-related technologies in India, this facility will soon host a new line to double up capacity to produce 2.4 mn units of ABS and ESC by 2018-end. The company also recently committed substantial investments to expand its horizons with two new greenfield facilities in India as well as increasing its headcount to 10,000 over the next two years. Doreswamy said technology adoption is the key as the industry takes a giant leap and manufacturing has to be at the same pace to propel localisation for safer, cleaner and intelligent mobility for passenger cars as well as two-wheelers.
GROWTH OF ABS IN INDIA
Indian roads witness over 1.5 lakh deaths every year. Of this, around 30 % accidents involve motorcycles and passenger vehicles each. It’s been almost six months since the government mandated ABS deployment in new 125 cc motorcycles starting April 2018, and retrofitting them in existing vehicles by April 2019. Given the growth in ABS in India owing to the government mandates, Continental is currently developing two different solutions to serve the local market, as the electronic brake systems will need ABS and can only be deployed with the disc brakes.
The single channel system, called MiniMAB, developed by Continental is deployed in the entry-level motorcycles and scooters that generally use front disc-rear drum combination and requires only one wheel speed sensor. MiniMAB controls the front wheel as it commands 60 % of the vehicle and minimises vehicle instability in case of any panic braking by the rider. Over 70 % of the Indian market is currently using a single channel system and depending on how the market goes on the power curve, this system is expected to stay in the Indian market for years to come, said Kohli. Continental offers a two-channel system called the MK100 MAB for higher powered vehicles. It is an anti-lock brake function for the front and rear wheel with lift-off detection for the rear wheel for optimum stability and deceleration. Equipped with an optional pressure sensor, the system can work more sensitively for vehicle stability.
The company has also developed the MK100 Motorcycle Integral Brake system, which is an advanced system capable of recognising the rider‘s intention of shedding speed. It applies brakes on both wheels regardless of the rider only using the front brakes. Four pressure sensors ascertain the braking pressures at the main cylinders and maximum force on the wheels for enhanced braking, ensuring shorter stopping distances. It also features a hill assist function for an easy ride-off without the rider required to actuate the brake.
Once ABS growth picks up momentum in India, Doreswamy believes Electronic Stability Control will be the next step to provide comfort and safer journey to the driver. India is also looking at advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) for which ESC is a pre-requisite. For example, when the vehicle takes turn, ESC controls the vehicle speed ensuring the vehicle does not go out of the track, and avoid under or over-steer. So, it individually controls each wheel as per the road conditions for stability, said Kohli.
Continental has doubled its engineering strength from 1,500 in 2017 to 3,000 this year at its Bengaluru centre. At the new Gurugram R&D centre, the company has already placed 33 engineers working on hydraulic braking system advancements, and development of competencies like simulation of how the hydraulic will flow and its reaction to different conditions, simulation of material, including casting and mould flow analysis. The Gurugram centre also has a product testing lab that conducts virtual simulation as well as actual testing for robust performance. The lab has already started with FEM simulation, kinetic and dynamic analysis.
The centre will work in tandem with its Bengaluru-based Continental Technical Centre India (TCI) and cater to the company’s global automotive business in Japan and Italy. TCI is an in-house R&D centre that works in sync with all automotive divisions of the company globally and is likely to emerge as a centre of competence for technologies like artificial intelligence and ADAS. Since Continental has built an international network for R&D engineers, it will increase its R&D workforce dependent on the international requirements, Doreswamy noted.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja