Continental Innovating For A Healthy Mobility Ecosystem

Technology August 2019 Continental Innovating Healthy Mobility Ecosystem

The mobility ecosystem of the future promises to be considerably different from the one we know today. Rapid evolution of technologies, new mobility solutions and alternative modes of transportation will make movement of people and goods convenient, reliable, clean and fast.

Technology company Continental, too, believes the key ingredients for a healthy mobility ecosystem are environmentally-efficient and social accepted technologies. The company recently organised its biennial technology showcase – the Continental TechShow – in Hanover, Germany to present to the world its new range of automotive solutions. We bring you this ground report.

From all the talk around disruptions and transformations in the automotive world, it appears that the life of internal combustion engines is in its last leg. Over a dozen countries, including India, and cities worldwide have already pledged to weed out ICEs, starting as early as 2025. Some vehicle manufacturers, too, have outlined their plans to go completely carbon-neutral over the next few decades.

There are significant concerns with the environmental damage that the world has experienced due to transportation, and there is an urgent need to find alternative drives. Predicting these issues will get much worse in the next decade or two, Dr Elmar Degenhart, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board, Continental called for the pressing need to go into the direction of carbon-free vehicles as quickly as possible. The character of this transformation will be disruptionary, he said, as the industry replaces combustion technologies with electric technologies.

In the last year alone, Continental has invested over € 3 bn in R&D for the next generation of mobility, with a significant amount going into technologies for new in-vehicle functions. Highlighting the key focus areas in this respect, Degenhart talked about the company’s alternative drive systems and technologies for automated & autonomous driving, as well as for the connected car.

Stringent regulations in markets world over will make combustion technology unaffordable around 2040, which means the last generation of combustion engines will go into production around 2030, he predicted. By that measure, the technology that will hit the market at the beginning of 2030 will start to be developed around 2025, and by 2045, combustion technology will be completely phased out. In another three decades from now, Degenhart said, mobility would ideally be carbon free for all forms of transportation – cars, trucks and buses. In a market like China, this progress is expected to be even quicker.

Largely driven by regulations, the next few decades would see rapid acceptance and adoption of electrified powertrains. This, when there is still no clear indication that electrified powertrains indeed are the best options for the future from an ecological and economical perspectives. While that debate continues to be part of corporate boardrooms, there is no doubt that the entire industry is moving towards electric vehicles (EVs).

The European Union, for instance, has mandated that from 2021, the EU fleet-wide average emission target for new cars will be 95 g/km of CO2. By 2025, carbon emissions from all new cars will need to be lowered by another 15 %, and by 2030, emissions will need to be reduced 37.5 % compared to 2021 levels. The CAFE (corporate average fuel efficiency) norms in India that came into force in April 2017 mandates the average corporate CO2 emission to be less than 130 g/km till 2022 and below 113 g/km thereafter. Such stringent targets would make the shift to EVs inevitable, feels many in the industry.

Continental is well positioned to take advantage of this shift. Its core competency in electronics puts the company in a strong position to lead developments in electric mobility. The electric axle drive is a good example of this. The third-generation electric axle drive is claimed to be the world’s first fully integrated, high-voltage axle drive for mass production. The liquid-cooled drive module consists of an electric motor, transmission, power electronics and motor control combined in a single, compact housing that weighs less than 80 kg and is available in two performance levels, with 120 kW and 150 kW. The integration has helped dispense numerous cable connections and plugs, reducing weight of EVs by around 20 kg.

The new electric axle drive is scheduled to go live with the launch of a small European car and several compact SUVs from Asian manufacturers by the end of 2019. It also finds place in the Sion electric car from German start-up Sono Motors, a product we drove at the ADAC driving safety centre in Hanover. The Sion is the first series electric vehicle to have solar cells in its body and also has an electronics architecture that is prepared to accommodate sharing concepts.

Additionally, Continental also showcased a new 48 V high power drive system for hybrid vehicles that makes driving long distances possible under electric-only power. Details about this technology is featured in the Tech Highlights section.

Further, in an industry first, the company showcased a new generation of power electronics equipped with a new kind of microchip technology enabling currents of up to 650 A, which was developed (both the hardware and software) at Continental’s in-house locations of Regensburg and Nuremberg. Compared to the first-gen power electronics deployed by Continental in 2011, the current, third-generation delivers six times the performance of the first, while its weight has been reduced from 12 kg (first-gen) to just 8 kg now. Importantly, the microchips on the new generation product uses sintering technology instead of conventional, soldered wire connections. The Powertrain division is using this technology for the first time in automotive electronics.

EVs will offer considerably more range during very cold or hot ambient temperatures as thermal management helps to protect the battery charge level – plus it speeds up the charging process

FUTURE DIRECTION

Continental is focussed on building solutions around the three critical areas of alternative drive systems, autonomous driving, connected vehicle and the cloud along with data management. Future growth will particularly be driven by two types of systems, said Degenhart – those for assisted driving and those for partially automated driving. He isn’t convinced about the industry putting huge amounts of money into fully autonomous driving, and isn’t expecting to see substantial growth in this field for another 10 years.

Robo taxis, however, is a different kettle of fish – a business that he expects would take off much earlier. In fact, the company believes urban areas would need driverless vehicles that provide a solution for congestion, accidents, contaminated air and parking problems in cities. The company has now started series production of technologies for driverless vehicles for the first time in French company EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle, a product Continental calls CUbE (Continental Urban mobility Experience). Continental has held a stake in this driverless vehicle manufacturer since 2017. The Continental radar system used on the EZ10 features seven radar sensors, each with a range of up to 200 m, which continuously monitor the vehicle environment.

Talking of assisted driving systems, a new generation short-range radar with 77 GHz technology makes it possible for drivers to implement a right-turn assist in confusing situations. The radar system captures the vehicle’s surroundings at a much higher resolution than before. In a situation, where the driver fails to respond to scooters or cyclists or pedestrians that approach from the rear right, the short-range radar detects and forwards a corresponding signal to the brake, stopping the car from hitting the pedestrian or scooter. This would be a requirement under Euro NCAP starting 2022, but Continental already claims readiness.

Another detection technology Continental showcased is the Road and Driver camera, which essentially is a combined camera system comprising an inward-looking infra-red camera and an outward-looking camera. Located behind the vehicle’s windshield and above the rear-view mirror, the system monitors both the driver as well as the traffic situation in front of the vehicle. Another system that aids the company’s drive towards Vision Zero is the PreviewESC, an additional electronic stability control function.

Apart from in-vehicle technologies, the automotive and tyre major has also been working on creating a smarter, safer and intelligent ecosystem. The company has undertaken a couple of smart city pilot projects – in Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA and Changsha, China – where inner-city traffic hubs have been retrofitted with smart sensors to create intelligent intersections. The data thus generated is exchanged with nearby vehicles through Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) or Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) to all-round safety.

Continental is also working on creating a smarter, safer and intelligent ecosystem. It is currently running two pilot projects on intelligent intersections in the US and China

GREATER CONNECTIVITY

Continental has had a strong focus on connected technologies for a long time. It was, in fact, in 1996 that the company had first connected cars to the internet. Today, the company claims to have equipped over 33 mn vehicles with connectivity solutions, and by 2026, a further 50 mn vehicles will be equipped with Continental telematics solutions, said the company in a recent release. Considering how smart communication has become a necessity among vehicles, infrastructure and drivers to ensure efficiency and safety, it is only likely to increase in the coming years.

The company is currently working on its first worldwide 5G solution for a vehicle manufacturer it hasn’t named. This new platform will combine features of 5G cellular communications with technologies for short-distance radio, which will allow direct data exchange between different vehicles and the infrastructure. 5G communication would be faster with fewer interruptions, and vehicles would be able to warn one other about accidents or traffic jams ahead.

Inside the vehicle too, Continental is bringing in additional communication solutions to enable better human-machine interaction. Continental is currently developing an innovative cockpit solution, the Natural 3D Lightfield Instrument Cluster, in cooperation with US-based Leia Inc. Based on an innovative ‘Lightfield’ technology, the cluster allows visibility of the 3D effect anywhere inside the car without the need for additional equipment like 3D glasses. This technology is likely to go into series production by 2022.

From visibility to voice, Continental is developing solutions to cover all aspects of connectivity. The objective is to develop solutions that ensure intuitive, easy and safe interaction between the driver and car. The adaptive voice-activated digital assistant for vehicles is built on smart algorithms and a system architecture precisely tailored to the vehicle. Interestingly, the system’s ability to detect meaningful connections without the driver having to issue standard commands makes it stand out. A command for “I’m hungry” would lead the system to initiate a restaurant search, for example. It is a hybrid solution comprising a cloud-based, voice-activated digital companion and natural voice recognition in the car.

Considering how smart communication has become a necessity among vehicles, infrastructure and drivers to ensure efficiency and safety, it is only likely to increase in the coming years

IMPORTANCE OF SOFTWARE

During his presentation, Dr Degenhart harped on the increasing role that software will play in the future of the automotive industry. The software component in cars is going to be a trillion-dollar opportunity in by 2030, he said. Let’s break this down for you. The annual sales in the automotive industry in the present context is about $ 2,780 bn, with hardware cornering bulk of the sales share – 90 %, or $ 2,470 bn to be precise. Software accounts for the remaining 10 % with sales of $ 280 bn. Software as a Service (SaaS) corners a small $ 30 bn share currently.

Skip to 2030, and the dynamics of the business changes significantly. The share of hardware in a vehicle would come down to approximately 50 %, while software and SaaS would combine to garner the remaining half of the market, amounting to $ 2,700 bn of the total $ 5,500 bn automotive market. The SaaS component of the market itself is projected to grow from $ 30 bn now to a massive $ 1,500 bn – a growth of 50 times in a little over a decade!

CONCLUSION

The increasing number of connected technologies in vehicles, the growing prospect of autonomous vehicles and shared mobility, point towards a significant shift in the mobility industry of the future. Software will be the new hardware, and the automotive industry is well aware of the need to evolve to remain competitive in the long run, especially with large technology companies starting to make inroads.

Collaboration between automotive players and other relevant stakeholders will continue to be formed. Dr Degenhart himself has been a strong advocate of collaborations. Companies will need to come together to form intelligent and smart corporations, and build collaborations across different areas, he had told us in an interaction in 2017. The increasing interest of IT and technology companies in the automotive sector would only benefit the innovation landscape, he had commented.

But who is going to get the biggest piece of the pie – the automotive industry or the technology and software companies? Technology companies clearly smell the opportunity with information, entertainment and the possibility with advertising in the connected car. Continental realises the opportunity and are investing heavily in developing computer programmes for this purpose, using them to connect the systems in the car and make the car a part of the internet.

TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

PHOTO: Continental

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2 Questions | Dr Elmar Degenhart, CEO, Continental Corporation

On the sidelines of the Continental TechShow 2019 in Hanover, we caught up with Dr Elmar Degenhart, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO, Continental AG for a short interview.

Dr Degenhart, in the last ContiTech Show in 2017, we saw a 48 V clean diesel technology. Yet, you talk about the complete phase-out of combustion technology by 2040. While it still means we have about two decades of life left in combustion engines, I wanted to know your perspective on the future of diesel technology, and also your views on what role turbocharged gasoline direct injection engines would play in the coming times.

Diesel technology has unfortunately got a very bad image for reasons we all know. And that happened at a point of time when the technology to make diesel really clean is available. We know there is no better technology than a clean diesel powertrain. A modern diesel engine with a very enhanced aftertreatment system is a perfect technology for long distance driving as well as for the environment. Yes, diesel engines are expensive because they have a very enhanced aftertreatment system. For small vehicles with engines below 1.8 l in size, diesel engines can’t be affordable any longer. However, for long distance driving, diesel engines above 1.8 l engine capacity is the perfect technology.

Europe was the most preferred market for diesel engines with a market share of about 50 % five years ago, but that is down by roughly 15-20 %, which is very significant. This has caused a lot of headache to the industry because on the supply side, we’re sitting with overcapacities – at least in Europe. The direct injection gasoline side, on the other hand, is under-capacitised.

We have to manage the situation. We believe the market shares will stabilise at the current level because the fleet managers still buy diesel vehicles. The private sector is concerned and messed-up, and because of driving limitations that are now being implemented in big cities all over Europe – not only in Germany – they are very cautious to invest into a diesel. That’s the current situation and most probably it will stay as it is, unfortunately.

When you talk of customers, per se, from working with traditional automotive industry to working with technology providers, to working with cities in the future, how do you see the transition, especially with future trends such as shared mobility?

This will be very important because they have the power to decide how mobility in a city will look like. That’s why the industry is joining forces, getting much more intensively associated with cities. We’ve recognised that big cities in Asia, primarily in Japan, China, India, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, are much more proactive and progressive to test new technologies, to test new functions than the cities in Europe. They have a fair chance to be ahead of cities in Europe to implement smart solutions for smart intelligent mobility in modern cities of the future. That’s why we have activities in China and in Singapore, because they are running much faster than London or Paris or Berlin, for example.

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Key Technology Highlights

From a wide variety of technologies showcased at the TechShow 2019, we pick up the six most exciting new developments across electrification, autonomous and connected domains.

PreviewESC

PreviewESC is a new dimension to Continental’s eHorizon solutions. Aimed at passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles and two-wheelers, the eHorizon provides a preview of the road ahead to vehicle control units, enabling predictive driving solutions. The eHorizon essentially is an additional, virtual sensor that networks data from various different sources, assesses it intelligently and relays it to other vehicles.

PreviewESC is designed to intervene in situations, where the driver is either distracted or he or she has misjudged the road surface conditions, is approaching the bend too quickly or because it’s a blind bend. The technology adapts the vehicle speed to the real-time situation. The PreviewESC compares the data it receives from the eHorizon regarding the friction coefficient and curve radius of the road ahead with the actual vehicle speed to determine whether the vehicle is, for example, traveling too fast to make it safely around the next bend. In such cases, PreviewESC – depending on how OEMs configure the vehicle – will warn the driver and, if necessary, automatically brake slightly to adjust the vehicle speed. PreviewESC will warn the driver and intervene before a vehicle velocity is likely to cause a stability critical situation. Continental anticipates this to become a requirement for automated and autonomous driving of the future, because it would be necessary for such vehicles to know not just the exact route ahead, but also the amount of available grip on the road.

Smart City Pilot

A research by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has estimated that 40 % of road crashes in the US occur at intersections. Continental is scheduled to undertake long-term testing of its Smart City Pilots focussed on intelligent infrastructure, including intelligent intersections and intelligent street lamps, in Auburn Hills, Michigan and Changsha, China – Continental’s test fields in real road traffic.

The intelligent intersection is a comprehensive sensor-based (mounted on infrastructure) object detection and fusion system, as well as a holistic traffic understanding. Along with street lamps, these intersections will be equipped with a range of sensors and roadside units for infrastructure-to-vehicle communication (I2V), enabling vehicles and infrastructure to exchange data. Any such information relating to the position and movement of road users as well as the traffic situation will be exchanged among the intersections, street lamps and connected vehicles using Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC), Celluar-V2X (C-V2X), radars, cameras and Conti.Cloud. The system would also enable congestion detection, detection and communication of occluded pedestrians.

Dynamic Pressure

Continental is undertaking initial trials on a solution that will allow adjustment of tyre pressures, while the vehicle is in motion. The system will allow tyre pressure to be increased to reduce rolling resistance during driving on long stretches, reduce the risk of aquaplaning in torrential rain by narrowing the contact patch, increasing riding comfort or ensure maximum traction in severe conditions.

Continental has built microprocessors into the wheel that helps generate tyre pressure. These microprocessors enable the pressure to be adapted within a few minutes without even having to stop. The solution will allow drivers to shift the tyre characteristics from sporty to economical or comfortable and back. For Continental, Dynamic Pressure forms one of the building blocks of the sustainable mobility of the future.

ContiSense, on the other hand, is an intelligent tyre technology concept for sensing tyre and road condition, measuring inflation pressure, temperature and tread depth, detection of tyre puncture and signal transmission to vehicle & smartphones. This concept uses sensors that are structurally integrated into a tyre, which is made of electrically conductive rubber for sensing and transporting signals. The company’s electronic-Tyre Information System (eTIS) helps transmit signals from the tyre to the vehicle or the cloud.

Intelligent Glass Control

For long, the industry has known about the potential of windows being used as display surfaces. Continental has developed intelligent glass control that connects car windows with the on-board computer. This represents an important step on the road toward electromobility and autonomous driving. The solution aims to integrate windows even more effectively into the car’s user interface.

The Intelligent Glass Control uses special ‘Liquid Crystal’ films that are integrated into the glass and change their degree of translucency as per the applied voltage level. With optimised electronic control of the new film technology, the system can provide a neutral colour, fast switching speed, good contrast and low temperature dependence.

In an LC car window mould, liquid crystals mix with tiny paint particles in a special suspension that is, in turn, integrated into a fine film between two thin glass panes. Under the influence of a low AC voltage, the liquid crystals and paint particles align to either dim or lighten the windows. The transparency or opacity of a window can be adjusted within milliseconds. The solution allows each individual car window to be dimmed separately on command. Statutory regulations mean that this is not currently allowed on all vehicle windows, although the potential fields of use for future applications are many and varied.

Data Monetisation

In association with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Continental has launched a new blockchain-based data monetisation platform that encourages sharing of vehicle data to improve driver safety, convenience, by providing data sovereignty and transparency. The platform will also help car manufacturers and other partners to trade data with each other – either to improve digital services for their customers or to monetise vehicle data. Continental assures that trading would be feasible only upon a driver’s consent. Both companies have applied a complimentary approach to the platform, which leverages a decentralised architecture based on blockchain technologies. Participants can continue storing the data in their own data centres and only share specific data sets upon purchase directly with the buyer.

It is fairly clear that enterprises across different industries have understood the need for multiple parties to work together to extract the full value from their data. Data sharing across automotive brands will be key to the success of connected and autonomous vehicles. The new platform was jointly designed by HPE Pointnext and Continental’s Interior division.

Full Hybrid Vehicle with 48 V High Power

In Continental’s drive towards developing environmentally-efficient drive systems, the company has now showcased its latest innovation, a 48 V, 30 kW high-power drive system that can power a full hybrid vehicle. The technology solution enables electric-only driving in hybrid vehicles, apart from it being used with both gasoline and diesel engines. The compact, efficient system can be installed in the same space, while it generates double the performance, claimed Continental.

To drive using just electricity, a Hybrid vehicle would typically use up to 800 V, which has now been brought down to 48 V by Continental. The new 48 V high-power system comprises an electric motor complete with integrated power electronics and a battery. Apart from being cheaper, the new system also reduces fuel consumption and thereby CO2 emissions by around 20 % compared with similar vehicles fitted with combustion engines. The 48 V system was repositioned in the powertrain, with the electric motor being placed behind the combustion engine on the crankshaft – between the combustion engine and transmission (P2 hybrid).

A key component in the 48 V high-power solution is a new, water-cooled electric motor with a peak output of 30 kW, double in comparison with what was used previously. Electric-only driving is therefore possible up to a speed range of 80 to 90 km/h, claimed the company. The developers were able to achieve a 100 percent increase in power while maintaining the diameter of the motor. Additionally, integrated power electronics also uses a new technology that now enables it to handle significantly higher currents.