AT Continental TechShow 2019, the German automotive supplier pressed home its expertise in autonomous and smart tech.
In particular, it’s focusing on delivering both electric drivetrains and autonomous driving features, believing both to be “major trends” of the industry moving forward.
This year’s tagline – Mobility is the Heartbeat of Life – crystallises the company’s zero accidents, zero emissions and zero stress goal.
One of the products showcased was Continental’s third-generation electric drive axle, which is a fully integrated, high-voltage axle drive for mass production.
The electric motors, power electronics and reduction gear are combined into one compact, liquid-cooled housing weighing less than 80kg and is available in either 120kW or 150kW form.
Continental says the technology can be incorporated into “various” vehicle classes. In fact, it will be in a “small European car” and several compact SUVs from unnamed “Asian manufacturers” by the end of 2019.
It will also power the Sion electric car by German start-up Sono Motors.
Continental is also advancing hybrid vehicles through a 48volt high-power drive system that allows for long drives using only electric power.
Before this, purely electric driving has generally been possible with high-voltage drive systems, but not with 48-volt technology.
The new hybrid drive combines an electric motor with integrated power electronics and a battery, all developing drive power of up to 30kW.
It’s the same size as its predecessor but has double the output.
Continental claims this technology reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by “around 20 percent” compared with similar ICE vehicles.
There was also a demonstration of PreviewESC, which brakes your car for you if it senses you’re approaching a corner too quickly.
It compares the current vehicle speed with cloud data about that section of road.
If the vehicle is travelling too quickly to corner safely, PreviewESC automatically applies the brakes to adjust the speed accordingly.
Something else still in development, and very cool, is Intelligent Glass Control.
Within milliseconds, it can dim windows on command or make them transparent.
Intelligent Glass Control uses special Liquid Crystal (LC) films integrated into the glass. By applying an electrical control signal, the glass can change its degree of translucency at the touch of a button.
In practice, each individual car window could be dimmed separately on command, which reduces the need to blast the air-con and hence reduces CO2 emissions!
The most exciting possibility is if the tinting function could be dimmed or brightened automatically in advance depending on weather conditions or position of the sun.
According to Continental, it has invested more than 3 billion euros ($4.7 billion) in research and development for the next generation of mobility, with a “significant” proportion going toward technologies for new in-vehicle functions.
“With our investments in research and development, we are significantly shaping the greatest upheaval in the automotive industry since its birth and are doing so from a leading position,” said Continental’s chairman Elmar Degenhart.
On the sidelines of the exhibition, we were also able to speak with Continental Automotive’s chief technology officer Dirk Abendroth, 44, on the company’s future direction.
He began his career at BMW, moved to Chinese EV startup Byton and now focuses on technology trend scouting, developing R&D processes and enhancing Continental’s innovative power.
The following is an edited excerpt of the interview.
Continental Automotive’s chief technology officer Dirk Abendroth.
Kai Yi (KY): Continental is first and foremost, an automotive technology company. How do you sell such new technology to the unconvinced?
Dr Dirk Abendroth: What I learned is, you shouldn’t ask people what they need next. Because they can’t give you an answer. If you ask people what is the electric range you need, they simply follow what they have today.
If they have a gasoline car, they’ll tell you 700km. If you’ve got a diesel car, that’s 1000km.
To a certain degree, you need to create a trend, starting with a micro trend. You to need to find a certain group of people who is convinced. And (then) we make something cool.
Cool is not something you can measure easily. But it’s something that is related to emotions. So we create emotions that people are usually willing to pay for.
SINGAPORE HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF THE LEADING NATIONS WITH RESPECT TO HOLISTIC SOLUTIONS.
KY: I’m from Singapore, and we are pursuing a Smart Nation strategy. It involves, among other things, advances in transportation. Do you have updates of some developments, any talks so far?
Dr Abendroth: Absolutely. To me, Singapore has been always a very special place. Singapore has always been one of the leading nations with respect to holistic solutions. And that is up to the innovation, the innovative power and political willingness to change. That is found nearly nowhere else in the world.
When it comes to quick changes, (there is) a high willingness of the government to bring legislation into place.
Singapore is one of our most attractive partners. For us, our biggest strength at Continental is industrialisation, software and bringing things up to scale.
That is where we are exceptionally good in comparison to smaller, more innovative and wealthier companies. We’re only seeing a very good match between Continental and Singapore.
KY: Cars are becoming more complex with more electronic systems. This obviously introduces the problem of cyberattacks on vehicles. What’s Continental’s take on mitigating these attacks?
Dr Abendroth: Security is key – the car is absolutely becoming a smart device. That is something you can’t avoid. But the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Continental knows how to secure the car, and the only thing we’re currently struggling with is how to make people pay for it. Because people expect this to be just an add-on feature for free.
To a certain degree, that’s true. You won’t buy a computer if the security system is not state-of-the-art.
That’s something which needs a fundamental change of thinking and that is what we’re going to be starting with to get this in place.
Technology-wise, we’re on it. And I think we are prepared.
SECURITY IS KEY BECAUSE THE CAR IS BECOMING A SMART DEVICE.
Intelligent Glass Control lets you change your window’s translucency at the touch of a button.