Continental Technology Shines Through in Driverless Test
In what Continental is calling a “high-tech triumph”, the “Boss”, a self-driving Chevrolet Tahoe equipped with Continental technology, won the DARPA Urban Challenge 2007. With the help of a dozen sensors and the Conti know-how in the domain of sensor data fusion, the vehicle’s computer was fed optimally prepared data on its surroundings. As a reward for its efforts the “Boss” development team came away with the top prize – two million dollars.
The racetrack was an artificial suburb at the decommissioned George Air Force Base in Victorville, California, in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Fifty vehicles with human drivers plied the streets of this ‘suburb’ during the test, but inside eleven other cars, all travelling within pre-determined local speed limits, sat nobody at all. Computers had taken control. While this may sound like science fiction, the eleven vehicles were in fact participants in the world’s most famous competition for autonomous ground vehicles, sponsored by the US Department of Defense’s research department. The task facing the driverless cars was to finish a 100 kilometre stretch in six hours – accident-free and without violating any traffic regulations. “Boss” took the day, circulating skilfully around the test track steered by the calculation prowess of ten high-performance computers, winding its way through narrow streets, recognising closed stretches, avoiding other vehicles, making it through intersections and dealing with merging traffic without mishap. It even pulled into a parking spot by itself. As Dr. Michael Darms, an engineer who spent almost two years developing “Boss” for Continental, noted: “It was quite impressive how well our robot did, safely negotiating the stretch at a good clip, working its way around moving and stationary obstacles.” Continental tyres also contributed to the victory. Long after the race was over, the team noticed a screw protruding from the rear left tyre. This had proven no problem at all because “Boss” was outfitted with self-sealing tyres from Continental that can close a puncture for a certain time.
The roads upon which the race would take place on were not announced until just 48 hours prior to the event. This was done in the form of an electronic roadmap marked with the respective traffic symbols. The team was not informed of the three missions it had to tackle until a mere five minutes before a given start, when the information was made available on an USB stick.
The DARPA event provided a look into the future: An increasing number of intelligent safety systems, such as the ContiGuard, for instance, help avoid accidents and reduce injury. “Technologies like the intersection assistant or lane detector will be offered in run-of-the-mill passenger cars in short,” announced Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, member of the Continental AG Executive Board.