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‘Everyone is in the autonomous car race’

K Giriprakash | Updated on March 10, 2018

Kurt Lehmann, Corporate Technology Officer, Corporate Systems & Technology, Continental AG

Continental AG’s CTO speaks about the future of his company and the challenges ahead

These are exciting times for the global car industry with a whole lot of mobility disruptions already happening. Kurt Lehmann, Corporate Technology Officer, Corporate Systems & Technology, Continental AG,discusses how these will translate into enormous opportunities for his company.

How safe will autonomous cars be once they hit the road?

We at Continental are aware of safety issues that arise after computers make decisions and take human beings out of the loop. Our worldwide R&D footprint is actively developing technologies in the most important regions for automated driving (Europe, North America, China, Japan).

As per our Vision Zero project, which basically means zero accidents, it is not just a dream but ensuring that self-driven cars are safe and completely avoid accidents.

At the same time, there are lot of things happening in the way people drive their cars in terms of sharing, use of mobility services and new mobility concepts.

There is lot more focus on ride share and we have taken that into consideration as well. Our engineers are working on six key building blocks: automated driving sensor technology, cluster connectivity, human-machine dialogue, system architecture, reliability and the acceptance of automated driving.

What do you have to say about the likes of Apple and Google throwing their hats into the autonomous driving ring?

Everyone is in the race to get there first but the learning curve is steep. The technology is evolving very quickly and everyone is trying to move as quickly as possible to develop capabilities. However, they are limited by validation of the system to ensure that it is foolproof.

More limiting is the regulation from local governments: their decision-making takes more time than for the technology to evolve. There is a possibility of these cars being used during the Tokyo Olympics as well as on different test areas across the world.

For us, two rules should be used as an orientation: avoid any kind of collision and, if this is not possible, reduce the speed of the car as far as possible.

What other areas is Continental working on?

Electrification is one of these and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions will definitely help improve the environment. There are improvements in internal combustion engines, which will be another plus.

We have full electric vehicles now and there are hydrogen cells, which we are working on.

We are keeping all options open and trying to find out which is the most effective.

We are also looking closely at the total cost of ownership.

If you combine electrification and autonomous driving, you will be able to visualise what vehicles will look like. Another interesting technology is biometric access, which will enhance the degree of vehicle access security through fingerprint technology and allowing for real personalisation through face recognition.

Head-up displays, especially with augmented reality features, are also an important way of establishing trust.

Using the holographic waveguide technology of DigiLens, we are now able to reduce installation volume by a factor of three.

How about about the role of artificial intelligence in automated cars?

We are looking at how we interface with the data and use AI methodology to qualify data differently and extract attributes from the data.

Artificial intelligence is one enabler for automated cars and helps to make future mobility seamless, comfortable and reliable.

Published on April 27, 2017

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