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Continental Commissions First Driverless Tyre Test Vehicle

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  • Newly developed tyres are being tested under real life conditions to ensure premium quality

  • Automation allows for improved processes and more conclusive results

  • Driverless tyre tests based on prototypes of Continental’s automated Cruising Chauffeur

Continental, the premium German tyre and technology company, has commissioned the first driverless tyre test vehicle, using pioneering technology based on the company’s automated Cruising Chauffeur. Launched at the Continental test site in Texas, USA, the innovative system will see newly developed tyres being tested under real life conditions across a wide range of road surface, making test results for Continental’s passenger and light truck tyres more conclusive to ensure premium quality.

Controlled through a satellite-based navigation system, the new test vehicle is equipped with camera and radar sensors allowing the vehicle to react immediately to people, animals, or other unexpected objects on the road without a driver. This contributes to making Continental’s Vision Zero strategy for accident-free driving a reality.

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Nicolai Setzer, Continental Executive Board member and Head of Tyre Division said, “In critical situations, the tyres’ level of technology is the deciding factor in whether a vehicle brakes in time. With tyre tests which use an automated vehicle, we achieve highly conclusive test results and thereby ensure the premium quality of our tyres.”

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Driving test vehicles places huge demands on the drivers and the smallest deviations on the test track can have a huge impact on the quality and comparability of the test results. Therefore, newly developed rubber compounds and tyre models will be tested under real life conditions to show just how well they perform on different road surfaces.

In addition to the significantly improved comparability of the results, the tyre test using automated vehicles will also reduce the maintenance work required for the test tracks as there will be less route variations.

Thomas Sych, Head of Tyre Testing at Continental, commented, “We want to automate and standardise tyre tests to such an extent that we can identify even the smallest differences in the tyres. The automated vehicle enables us to reproduce processes precisely, meaning that every tyre in the test experiences exactly the same conditions. This way, we can ensure that differences in the test are actually caused by the tyres and not by the test procedure.”

“Thanks to close collaboration with colleagues from many different areas of Continental, we have made a lot of progress with our prototype for the tyre test. Our focus now is on further developing the necessary camera and radar systems for this special case of off-road routes,” explains Sych.

Automated vehicles are not new for Continental. As far back as 50 years ago, Continental was already doing groundbreaking work in preparing for the future of mobility. The company’s engineers developed an electronically controlled car to automate tyre tests 50 years ago when the vehicle followed a wire that was glued to the track, which limited its use to asphalt test tracks. Today’s prototype can also safely navigate along gravel roads without a driver.

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Audi Study: No Congestion in the City of the Future

The research project “25th Hour – Flow” simulates the traffic flow in Ingolstadt.

The future of urban mobility: people will have more time, cities more space.

Melanie Goldmann, Audi Trend Communication: “Autonomous cars, services, and networked infrastructure reduce traffic jams and road space”.

How much time will we save in a city with autonomous cars, ride sharing and smart traffic management? Answers are given by the Audi study “25th Hour – Flow”. Partnering with the traffic experts at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) and the Munich consultancy MobilityPartners, the research simulated the future of mobility in Ingolstadt/Germany. According to the study, a lasting reduction in travel times can be achieved on a typical commute: in fully automated traffic by one third, even though over ten percent more people are on the road. The prerequisite is that the trend towards sharing takes hold.

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Fleets of self-driving cars will help to solve traffic problems in cities in the long term. These benefits become even more apparent when coupled with smarter traffic management and a higher occupancy rate, i.e. increasing the average number of persons per car. If this figure rises moderately from 1.1 to 1.3 persons, because more people share a car, there is no more congestion during rush hour. In a fully automated, networked traffic system, more people (+12%) can be transported much more quickly (-33%) in commuter traffic (see animation).

Connected, automated and shared vehicles also provide cities with new opportunities to use and reallocate space to improve urban quality of life. For example, the study found that the incorporation of fully autonomous vehicles could repurpose one traffic lane in a four-lane network and dedicate this new space to pedestrians or bicycles instead of vehicles. The study takes into account that, with an increasing number of autonomous cars, more senior citizens and children without a driver’s license have access to mobility, and convenient robo-taxis will compete with local public transportation.

“The results suggest that autonomous cars, mobility services, and networked infrastructure can significantly reduce congestion and road space. At the same time, more young and old people can travel safely and conveniently. In this way, the quality of life in cities will be improved dramatically. These findings encourage us to continue our investment in the future: in self-driving cars such as the Audi Aicon, services like Audi on demand, or networked technology such as Audi traffic-light information,” says Melanie Goldmann, head of Trend Communication at Audi.

The study also examines more extreme scenarios. For example, what happens if there is a sharp increase in the number of people who use public transportation, walk, or travel by bike? What is the effect of high levels of delivery traffic as a result of online shopping? And what happens if cities do not permit self-driving cars or are slow or reluctant to digitalize their infrastructure? The results range from shorter journey times in commuter traffic (-40%) to gridlock.

“The effects of connected and automated vehicles and of other technical and societal developments are continuously studied in the transportation research community. In most cases, the studies focus on single aspects of these developments in order to better identify the isolated effect of exactly that aspect alone. Our objective was different: We wanted to draw a picture of what mobility will look like when all these effects come together,” says Professor Peter Vortisch, head of the Institute for Transport at the KIT.

In the traffic model for Ingolstadt, the researchers investigated only one parameter in isolation, without taking account of changes in user behavior or increased demand: how many self-driving cars would be needed today to make the traffic flow noticeably better? At least 40 percent! Computers maintain the necessary distance to other vehicles, do not drive too fast, and obey all traffic signals. However, according to several academic studies, in a mixed traffic situation this has a disadvantage for traffic flow. Journey times are noticeably cut only with an increasing number of autonomous cars: if the roads in Ingolstadt today were used only by autonomous vehicles, travel times would fall by one quarter.

“The results show us how important it is to take an overall view of urban mobility. Self-driving cars require mobility services and smart infrastructure to make the most of their advantages. For this reason it is important to cooperate with various stakeholders, especially with cities,” says Goldmann.

With its approximately 140,000 residents, Ingolstadt, Audi’s headquarter city, is well suited as a “laboratory” for traffic flow on the roads, as traffic here has four wheels: for historical reasons there are many automobiles and buses here, but no subway or trams. These conditions apply in many medium-sized cities in different countries.

Audi’s “25th Hour” project

Today, on average, drivers spend about 50 minutes per day at the wheel. In the “25th Hour” project, since 2017 Audi has been investigating how self-driving cars will change our everyday lives. In the future will we continue to spend almost an hour a day in the car?

In addition, the traveling time in the self-driving car can be put to good use: passengers talk, relax or work. In collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO), Audi is investigating how, for example, the interior of the car can become a perfect workplace (study, 2017). For Audi’s strategists and designers, the answers to such questions are highly relevant. Digitalization and urbanization transform cities, mobility and user behavior. Automobile concepts, however, are being developed today – and have to blend smartly and efficiently with developing mobility systems in the future.

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Audi, Italdesign and Airbus combine self-driving car and passenger drone

At the Geneva Autosalon from 8 to 18 March, Audi, Italdesign and Airbus are presenting “Pop.Up Next”, an entirely electric, fully automatic concept for horizontal and vertical mobility. In the distant future this vehicle could transport people in cities quickly and conveniently on the road and in the air, at the same time solving traffic problems. The dominant interior feature is a 49-inch screen, while interaction between humans and the machine is performed by speech and face recognition, eye-tracking and a touch function.

The ultra-light, two-seater passenger cabin can be attached either to a car module or to a flight module. Audi is supporting the project with know-how on battery technology and automation.

“Creativity is needed where new mobility concepts for cities and people’s diverse needs are concerned. Italdesign is an incubator for innovative technologies and radical prototyping. Pop.Up Next is an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future,” says Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi Board Member for Procurement and President of Italdesign.

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Italdesign develops future-oriented vehicle concepts for Audi and customers around the globe. Jörg Astalosch, CEO of Italdesign, says: “Various players will define the rules of urban mobility in the future. We are proud to collaborate with Airbus, the leading company in the aerospace industry, to investigate solutions for future mobility.” Astalosch sees Pop.Up Next as a flexible on-demand concept that could open up mobility in the third dimension to people in cities. Italdesign is making use of a network of cities, universities and various stakeholders in order to better anticipate the future of mobility in cities. A first version of Pop.Up already had its premiere at the Geneva Autosalon a year ago.

Pop.Up Next is significantly lighter than its predecessor, and the interior has been redesigned.

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Continental Introduces Fully Automated Valet Parking

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Continental Automotive Group, the German company which specialises in tyres and automotive technology, has developed an automated technology solution, enabling cars to valet park without a driver. Recently presented to the public at the 2017 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, the fully automated Valet Parking function was demonstrated in a demo vehicle at Continental’s premises in the city.

Continental’s latest innovative technology has been presented at a time when autonomous driving is an increasingly hot topic in the Middle East as a number of GCC governments have revealed their plans to develop smart cities and boost autonomous driving.

“With valet parking, we have presented a driverless function, which relieves drivers from a tedious procedure,” explained Alfred Eckert, Head of Advanced Technology in Continental’s Chassis & Safety division. “The valet parking function provides drivers with a beneficial service in terms of convenience and time. It is also a concrete step towards modern mobility based on fully automated driving.”

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With this new technology, once the driver has exited the vehicle, the car navigates independently through the parking garage barrier, detecting free parking spaces and parks fully autonomously on the first floor. Pedestrians and other vehicles crossing its path are detected and the driving strategy is adapted dynamically. The next stage of development, which Continental’s team of engineers in Germany are working on now, will mean the system can also navigate up and down ramps to other levels in multi-storey parking facilities.

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An adaptable system

In the case of the first stage scenario demonstrated for valet parking, the system communicates wirelessly with the entry barrier. For this purpose, a particular communication infrastructure is activated in the barrier to allow access and calculate the time parked through an automatic process. This technology is already available in parking garages, where it is used in the form of a radio frequency identification system for parking permit holders. However, where parking barriers require a ticket for entry, drivers will have to get their tickets manually, drive through the barrier, exit the car, and then hand the rest of the parking procedure over to the vehicle. Upon request, the vehicle will return to the owner with a simple tap on a button on a mobile application for valet parking, leading the car to the exit barrier.

Continental has developed this software to enable vehicles to find a parking space regardless of the infrastructure in a parking garage. The demo vehicle detects its surroundings using four short-range radar sensors, four surround-view cameras and a forward-facing mono camera. Through the use of sensory data and a digital map, the vehicle will determine its exact position in the parking garage and navigate automatically. The sensory-based approach of the valet parking function with ramp navigation is expected to be available to the public by 2022.

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Autonomous driving in the Middle East

As a number of GCC governments begin to roll out their own plans, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the unveiling of Continental’s new technology is timely and in line with the focus on developing smart cities and boosting autonomous driving. This includes Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s ongoing goal to make 25 percent of all journeys driverless by 2030, and Saudi Arabia’s plans for the US$ 100 billion King Abdullah Economic City remodelling to better accommodate driverless cars in recognition of potential future demand.

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