Continental Corporation, the leading automotive supplier and technology pioneer, recently held its biennial TechShow in Hanover, Germany. Held at the corporation’s Contidrom Proving Grounds, located north of Hanover in the Lüneburg Heath, TechShow 2017 showcased major innovations related to future mobility, across three major areas – electrification, connectivity and automated driving.
A select few journalists from different parts of the world were invited by Continental to experience these innovations first-hand, much before these key technologies go live for the public at the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show in September this year. Auto Tech Review was at Hanover too and brings you this feature highlighting the top 10 key innovations from TechShow 2017.
Continental has been one of the pioneers in electrification of the powertrain, be it the 48 V mild hybrid applications or the high-voltage powertrains for electric and hybrid vehicles. Now, the company has also innovated in electrification of vehicle systems beyond the powertrain. Dr Elmar Degenhart, Chairman of Continental’s Executive Board said electric mobility also requires appropriate solutions in many other areas, such as engine mounts, brakes, wheels and tyres. And the extensive cross-divisional expertise in these areas gives Continental a holistic understanding of electric mobility.
Innovative Wheel & Braking Concept for EVs
The first innovation to catch our eye is the new wheel concept that optimises the braking system, specifically of EVs. The wheel concept is based on a new division between the wheel and the axle. The wheel rim consists of two aluminium parts – the inner carrier star with the brake disk, and the outer rim well with the tyre. In contrast to conventional wheel brakes, the new wheel concept brake engages the aluminium disk from the inside, thus allowing it to have a particularly large diameter that benefits the braking performance.
The design of the new wheel concept enables the use of a large aluminium brake disk and solves the problem of bad braking performance due to corroded brake disks, said the company. It reduces weight of the wheel and brake, and cuts down on the service costs due to a lifetime brake disk and an easy brake pad change. Since it is made of aluminium, it is corrosion-free and prevents formation of rust.
Aimed at making EVs more acceptable and accessible to consumers, Continental has introduced an innovative charging technology that turns electric powertrain into a universal charger – a world first – catering to all types of cable-based charging station. The solution has been developed to always use the maximum output rate, up to 800 V and up to 350 kW at all types of charging stations – single-phase AC, three-phase AC or high-speed DC.
Continental claims the use of the AllCharge system will offer maximum benefit – up to 12 times faster charging possible – at urban AC charging stations. Further, the bi-directional system opens up complete new applications for the large amounts of energy stored in the vehicle battery. The AllCharge system’s V2D (vehicle-to-device) technology also allows the vehicle battery to be used to power mobile electrical devices, such as refrigerators and laptops.
Dr Martin Brüll, responsible for the new charging system, said five minutes of charging using the 350 kW DC charging provides approximately 150 km of driving range. The technology allows for two possible charging current paths to the battery, using a single cable connector.
Super Clean Electrified Diesel
Continental demonstrated a “Super Clean Electrified Diesel” that uses a 48 V mild hybrid system not just to reduce fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emissions, but also achieve significant reductions in pollutant emissions from diesel engines. By making various modifications to a Euro 6 standard diesel vehicle, engineers at Continental were able to reduce NOx emissions by 60 %. In real-world testing on the road, Continental claimed to have kept NOx emissions well below the legal limits, in addition to being able to cut CO2 emissions by 4 %.
The technology package developed by Continental comprises of highly flexible fuel injection, 48 V hybrid system, SCR exhaust aftertreatment and electrically heated catalyst. José Avila, President of the Powertrain Division and Member of the Executive Board of Continental predicted that the diesel engine will continue to play an important role in meeting mobility needs for the foreseeable future. Hence, it is important for the company to develop technologies to support extremely low-pollutant diesel operation.
Emissions can be further reduced with the help of connected Energy Management (cEM), which allows implementation of a more energy-efficient driving strategy simply by using an improved database. The cEM control unit can decide in advance when the vehicle should coast and when it is best for it to recuperate braking energy, simply by learning the upcoming route – either through navigation or learning algorithms. That way, it helps save fuel and emissions.
For the last two decades that Continental has been offering internet connectivity to vehicles, it claims to have connected over 30 mn vehicles worldwide. We were informed that for the first time ever, half of all new cars this year will be equipped with some form of connectivity solution, and that by 2020, around 250 mn connected cars will be on our roads all around the world.
Helmut Matschi, member of the Executive Board at Continental and head of the Interior Division said “data” is the fuel of the 21st century, and hence Continental is focusing on holistic connectivity for a seamless online connection and developing the entire vehicle into an open system. Holistic connectivity concerns all aspects of a connected vehicle – from the in-vehicle electronics architecture, through the seamless connection, to the services and the interaction between driver and vehicle, he said.
One of the most fascinating innovations showcased at the TechShow this year was the speakerless audio system developed by Continental engineers. But how does a car’s audio system work if there are no speakers? For the development team at Continental, the answer was simple – the car itself is the speaker! The concept sounded simple too, when explained. Every surface, when excited, creates sound. And that exactly is the foundation Continental engineers worked upon, turning the surface area of the car into one giant loudspeaker.
Continental has used compact actuators to excite suitable surfaces to generate sound waves. This is similar to the core of a conventional speaker, where transducers consisting of a magnet and coil, send micro-vibrations to a membrane that then oscillates and transmits those vibrations to the car. In the new set-up, larger existing components and surfaces in the vehicle are excited by the transducers to radiate the sound, thus making the entire car the oscillating membrane.
Each of the required three main frequency ranges is provided for by specific areas in the vehicle. The A-pillar is suited for high frequencies, while the door panels, for instance, have the right properties for generating medium frequencies. To generate low frequencies, large components such as the roof lining or rear shelf is used – similar to existing speaker technology. Continental’s speaker-less audio system can weigh as little as 1 kg and requires as little as 1 l of total box volume. In contrast, a conventional system could weigh up to 15 kg, and need box volume of 10-30 l in the vehicle. The biggest benefit, however, is the totally immersive sound experience.
In its drive towards holistic connectivity, Continental is opening up the connected car to the developer community. It plans to invite interested developers to a Hackathon – an event for collaborative software development – at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where teams of innovative individuals will develop new ideas and services and directly integrate them in the cloud terminal as apps.
Continental’s cloud terminal transfers applications from the head unit to the cloud, thus offering maximum flexibility in the cockpit. Applications in the cloud are processed before being displayed on a powerful browser. This ensures that the system is always up-to-date and that new functions can be added at any time, explained Continental engineers. In addition, the cloud terminal also acts as the driver’s digital assistant. It can analyse the driver’s habits at different times of the day or week and automatically set the entertainment programme to play, or optimise the navigation system for automatic guidance.
In a release, Johann Hiebl, Head of the Infotainment & Connectivity business unit at Continental said the company’s open approach results in a completely flexible infotainment system, from which drivers and automotive manufacturers can both benefit. While it allows drivers to obtain new applications quickly and easily, OEMs can roll out applications across various models and vehicle classes at little cost.
Surface materials as a contributor to road safety? Yes, Continental believes that adaptation of surface colour in event of fatigue or dangerous traffic situation could increase the driver’s awareness levels. If surface materials are combined with various lighting technologies, the background lighting, for example, can adapt to circadian rhythms, weather conditions and ambient light levels, while the accent lighting can use light colours and intensities to generate moods, explained Continental.
Continental believes smart surfaces and translucent materials would play an important role in electrified and autonomous mobility concepts in the future. Describing the potential of the translucent Acella Hylite trim material, Jens Jünemann, Head of the Surface Identity department at Benecke-Kaliko within the Continental Corporation, said the driver’s and front seat passenger’s areas and the back of the car can also be illuminated individually. Driving, reading, sleeping and chilling can all be provided with different lighting options, adapting the interior to the individual circumstances and driving situation.
With automated driving, Continental sees an evolutionary as well as a revolutionary path. Dr Degenhart believes automated driving will provide an important contribution to making life easier for the driver, and to creating a more efficient overall traffic flow, with fewer critical situations or accidents. Self-driving cars and shared mobility would become commonplace in the world by 2030 and beyond, and Continental is focussed on building new forms of future urban mobility. Continental has been testing self-driving cars on public roads since 2012 in the US state of Nevada, and now has a global fleet of development vehicles in Germany, Japan, China and the US.
The Cruising Chauffeur function follows the national traffic regulations, enabling the vehicle to take over driving on highways, and letting the driver take over driving at the end of the highway stretch. This is made possible by a specially developed human-machine-interface (HMI) that is being tested in vehicles currently. In situations where the driver fails to respond to prompts to take over driving, the vehicle is able to stop automatically, using the minimum risk manoeuvre. This function will be part of the Cruising Chauffeur when it is ready for production in 2020, informed Continental.
The Cruising Chauffeur includes an additional fall-back mode that conventional vehicles do not have. That’s plan ‘B’. If the driver is no longer able to take control of the wheel again, for whatever reason, then the Cruising Chauffeur would bring the car to a stop safely. Once the system is activated, data from vehicle surroundings sensors such as cameras, radar and LiDAR are analysed in a central control unit known as the Assisted & Automated Driving Control Unit (ADCU).
For drivers, who find parking an annoying task, Continental has now provided vehicles with a memory function. With the trained parking solution, drivers can train their vehicles to perform parking procedures at the touch of a button. The trained parking function records and stores the sequence of a parking procedure. When in need, the driver needs to get the vehicle to the position where the recording was started, and at the touch of a button, the vehicle moves independently along the previously learned parking route.
To detect surroundings, the trained parking function uses existing sensors in the vehicle such as cameras and radars. The system generates a precise map of the surroundings from the sensor data and then stores this map. When the vehicle is in the area covered by this map, it can determine its precise position and automatically drive the learned route. Trained parking will be available in two versions – a partial automated variant that still requires driver supervision by the driver and is expected to be in series production in 2020. That will be followed by a fully automated variant that will require no driver supervision.
MK C1 for Highly Automated Driving
Brakes, along with the steering, will continue to remain the most important element of active safety, said Continental. Advanced or highly automated driving (HAD) would demand a lot more from braking systems. Continental’s MK C1 electronic brake solution, a by-wire system that offers a particularly fast, precise and autonomous pressure build-up, is ideal for automated driving, claimed engineers.
The company has now combined the MK C1 with a derivative of the MK 100 ESC (electronic stability control) to achieve the requirements of braking redundancy. Although highly unlikely, in the event of the primary EBS failing, the secondary EBS will step in and provide the required braking function. Should the primary EBS fail completely, the MK 100 HBE unit will stop the vehicle with the front wheels and provide an ABS function.
The MK C1 is in production since 2016 and enables 100 % recuperation of braking energy, and is approximately 30 % lighter. It integrates the tandem master cylinder (TMC), brake booster and control systems (ABS and ESC) into a compact, weight-saving one box design module and can build up braking pressure in 150 ms (time-to-lock), which is twice as fast as conventional systems today.
Continental Urban mobility Experience (CUbE)
As per a 2014 UN study, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, and by that time, individual mobility in cities will be severely restricted. Continental believes urban areas would need driverless vehicles – robo-taxis that provide a solution for congestion, accidents, contaminated air and parking problems in cities. Continental has developed a demo vehicle, which they call Continental Urban mobility Experience or CUbE, and will use it to test and research driverless passenger transportation at its location in Frankfurt starting this year.
Frank Jourdan, member of the Executive Board of Continental AG and Chairman of the Chassis & Safety Division Management Board said the future of individual mobility in cities is autonomous and electric, and it will become part of the shared economy. The company is developing cross-divisional solutions for driverless robo-taxis. It has access to an almost complete product portfolio of its own, including sensors, actuators, control units and communication and networking technology. In addition to existing technologies, new technologies such as laser sensors are also being used on the CUbE.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
(For a detailed report on the Continental TechShow 2017, please read our July 2017 edition.)