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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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Continental research highlights the need to pay more attention to tyre safety

Tyre Safety
Tyre Safety

Research by Continental, the premium tyre and automotive manufacturer, has revealed the degree to which UAE parents are overlooking basic safety checks of their vehicles, putting themselves and their children at risk. Contrary to the advice of safety experts, most parents are failing to check their tyres safety regularly enough, with a quarter not even being able to recall the last time they did a proper check.

As part of its Vison Zero safety initiative, Continental conducted two studies: one in collaboration with YouGov and another in partnership with the GEMS Modern Academy Dubai. The YouGov study of parents in the UAE showed the frequency with which parents check their tyres while a survey at the school inspected the tyre health of parents’ vehicles parked there.

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Road safety experts recommend checking tyres at least once per month for air pressure, tread depth and signs of irregular wear to help prevent catastrophic tyre failure while on the road [1]. However, of parents who said that they regularly drive their children to school, more than half (52 per cent) had not checked their tyres in the last month, according to the Continental-commissioned YouGov survey. Highlighting further concerns about child safety, one in four parents surveyed could not bring to mind the last time a thorough check on their vehicles tyres.

With tyre-related accidents in the UAE is believed to be contributing to around five percent of traffic deaths, Continental’s survey raises questions about parents’ awareness of basic vehicle safety precautions and the safety of the traditional daily “school run”.

Subsequent to these findings, Continental, and their local partner Emirates for Universal Tyres (EUT), carried out standard tyre tests on over 200 vehicles parked at the GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai, to help ensure that parents were ferrying their children safely and also to raise awareness around the issue. The expert technicians conducting the tests recommended that 24 of the vehicles, more than one in ten of the sample, should have at least one of their tyres replaced.

Commenting on the YouGov survey, Ricardo Martins, Head of Marketing, Continental Middle East said: “Checking the safety of your vehicle on a regular basis is the responsibility of each and every driver and is just one simple way of minimising the risk of road accidents. Finding out that this is not something that is regularly done by most parents in the UAE reinforced our motivation to look at the issue in greater detail and take action.

“We are pleased to have brought to the attention of dozens of parents the need to regularly check the health of your vehicle’s tyres. We take our global initiative of Vision Zero – our aspiration for a world with zero fatalities, injuries or accidents on the roads – very seriously and believe in making a difference with activities such as this,” Martins added.

Continental and EUT staff checked 204 vehicles of parents at the Gems Modern Academy in Dubai, testing for air pressure, tread depth, wear and punctures. While seven in ten vehicles had the correct tyre pressure, more than a quarter of checks discovered under-inflated tyres – a key factor contributing to irregular tread wear (discovered in 31 vehicles) and side-wall damage (found on 14 of the parked cars).

Speaking about the tyre safety initiative, Nargish Khambatta, Principal of GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai, said: “Our children’s safety is always our priority and such programmes are significant as they educate parents on the importance of road safety”.

Road safety continues to be a major issue in the UAE, with recent figures from the Ministry of Interior and National Transport Authority showing that 525 people lost their lives on the country’s roads in 2017 [2].

Speaking about the findings, Thomas Edelmann, Managing Director, RoadSafetyUAE, commented: “Tyre safety is a high concern in the UAE, especially considering the harsh climate. We experience tyre debris on our roads pretty much every day and this should serve as a warning. Tyre safety is even more relevant in the context of transporting our kids – we just want to make sure we transport our children in the safest possible manner. Caring parents should regularly check the condition of their vehicle and in particular the tyre condition by pre-drive checks. We welcome this initiative of our CSR-partner Continental.”

Continental’s YouGov survey asked 500 UAE parents about the last time they or a professional thoroughly checked the tyres on their car. Of these, 47 per cent claimed to have done so within the last month with a further 23 per cent and five per cent within the last six months and 12 months respectively. Exactly 25 per cent could not recall the last time they had their tyres checked.

As a frontrunner in automotive technological advancements and road safety, Continental is a dedicated advocate of greater safety on the roads – the company’s global Vision Zero initiative aims to totally eradicate road accidents and achieve Zero fatalities, Zero injuries and Zero accidents on the roads. These surveys were commissioned by Continental as part of its approach to delivering Vision Zero through enhancing drivers’ knowledge, attitude and awareness.

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