Conti receives test license for ‘driverless’ car
If we need technology to warn us about the obvious, then maybe it’s better to eliminate us from the equation completely – in the same week it announced plans to introduce technology that warns drivers they’re travelling the wrong way on motorways, Continental reports it has received an Autonomous Vehicle Testing License’ from the US state of Nevada. If all goes to plan, Continental technology could be present in driverless cars, which never mistake the motorway exit for the on-ramp, within as little as eight years.
Driving demonstrations were completed on 18 December and the Autonomous Vehicle Review Committee at Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles approved Continental’s safety plans, employee training, system functions and accident reporting mechanisms. This approval gave the green light for a testing licence and number plate. Conti’s license is the first one granted by the Nevada DMV to an automotive supplier.
“At Continental, we continue to invest in research and development for next generation technologies – such as our highly automated vehicle – that will drive us toward a safer, more efficient and more comfortable future,” said Dr. Elmar Degenhart, chairman of Continental’s executive board. “As a company, Continental’s strategy is clearly focused on making this type of future technology a reality. It’s clear to us that automated driving will be a key element in the mobility of the future. As a system supplier, we are perfectly positioned to develop and launch series production of solutions for partially automated systems for our customers by 2016. We will be able to develop the first applications for highly and ultimately fully automated driving, even at higher speeds and in more complex driving situations, ready for production by 2020 or 2025.”
“This vehicle demonstrates what modern technology can do to provide a safer, more comfortable drive. Earning this license represents an important intermediate step towards automated driving for Continental,” added Dr. Peter Rieth, head of Systems & Technology in Continental’s Chassis & Safety Division. “Continuing our research and testing in the most challenging environment – public roads – will allow us to continue to assess and develop our highly automated vehicle.”
Unlike a completely driverless vehicle, Continental’s current highly automated vehicle is designed to always have a driver sitting behind the wheel and monitoring the vehicle. The automated vehicle can accommodate multiple driving scenarios. Utilising four short-range radar sensors (two at the front, two at the rear), one long-range radar and a stereo camera, the vehicle is capable of cruising down an open freeway as well as negotiating heavy rush-hour traffic. Taking advantage of Continental’s sensor fusion technology as part of the ContiGuard safety concept, the vehicle is able to track all objects as they enter into the sensors’ field of view. The object information is then processed and passed on to the control unit (Continental Motion Domain Controller) to control the vehicle’s longitudinal and lateral motion via signals to the engine, the brakes and the steering system.
Conti says the equipment in its highly automated vehicle differs from the customised sensors and tailor-made actuators in other automated vehicles. The vehicle, which has logged more than 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometres), is built primarily with equipment that is already available in series production. Continental’s short-term goal is to relieve the driver of tedious and monotonous activities, such as driving on highways with minimal traffic or in low-speed situations like traffic jams.
Although the concept of complete fully automated driving is valid, Continental notes that it is not yet fully viable. Continental sees its highly automated vehicle as being an intermediate step toward fully automated driving. Continental’s vehicle brings Continental closer to achieving the company’s Vision Zero – the goal of reaching zero accidents and zero fatalities on the road. Continental will continue real world evaluations with this vehicle. From 2016, partially automated systems may therefore be assisting drivers in “stop & go” situations on the freeway at low speeds of up to 30 km/h.