MOTOR Magazine

A MOTOR Magazine Newsletter
June 1, 2017

Contributed by Bob Chabot
Driving You Safely

Safety should be onboard everywhere, all the time

The roots of vehicle and occupant safety are anchored underhood and undercar. It’s there that automakers rely on Tier 1 suppliers to provide closely networked components, enhanced electronic controllers, onboard intelligence and coordinated interfaces capable of docking with components from other suppliers.

In a visit with Continental Corp., MOTOR asked the company to share some of the technologies and innovations shop owners and technicians would soon be seeing on the vehicles they service. Some are new technologies, but one is a potential game-changer.

Continental is installing neural networks in the cameras of its advanced driver assistance systems for the first time. “We once grew with horsepower and hoof buffers,” said Continental CEO Dr. Elmar Degenhart. “Nowadays, our growth is driven by billions of bits and bytes. It’s a process of transition we must all adapt to. (All images — Continental AG)

Adaptability is Central to an Evolutionary Safety Strategy
Continental’s active chassis technology and electronic brakes leverage a wide range of possible interventions to adjust the vehicle’s behavior to unknown factors such as the condition of the road surface, driver attention, load changes and cornering. The goal: Ensure optimum contact with the road, no matter what the conditions.

The technology adjusts the chassis in response to various driving situations, by synchronizing the suspension, damping, engine control and steering function. Continental’s Chassis Domain Control Unit (CDCU) harmonizes these previously independent interventions. For instance, the integrated electronic air suspension system features outstanding response times, making it ideally suited to adjust the damping and spring characteristics to various driving situations within milliseconds to secure a comfortable driving experience. The active damping control not only enhances tires’ contact with the road, but also reduces body roll movements such as pitching.

Electronic brakes also play an important role in controlling driving dynamics. They make a crucial contribution to driving stability and safety — much more than just stopping a vehicle. Able to react much more quickly than a person can, electronic braking can intervene automatically, creating space for stabilizing intervention strategies by individual safety functions, such as anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC). For example, high-performance electronic brake systems intervene in the wheel slip on a targeted basis during borderline situations, returning full control of the vehicle to the driver afterward. In addition, integrated electro-hydraulic brake systems reduce the number of individual components and offering a significantly faster buildup of braking pressure than conventional hydraulic systems.

Continental’s comprehensive Safety Domain Control Unit delivers optimized sensor protection. Its current SPEED XL unit (above) is scalable to meet various vehicle class and size requirements in all global markets.

Continental’s comprehensive Safety Domain Control Unit delivers optimized sensor protection. Its current SPEED XL unit (above) is scalable to meet various vehicle class and size requirements in all global markets.

Sensing Systems Provide Situational Intelligence
Imagine you’re in a tight turn. The wheels are each turning at different speeds. From every corner of the vehicle, sensors offer feedback on the driving situation. In order to keep the vehicle safely on the road, the sensors communicate with other important components, such as the airbag control unit. And if a collision should occur, the vehicle’s occupants are protected by the airbags around them. But before that sensors are hard at work to do everything possible to avoid an accident.

Today’s vehicles feature a large number of safety components, the overall conditions for ensuring safe driving have never been better – assuming all components work together optimally from the initial build and are properly inspected serviced at repair facilities. The range of safety components that requires integration is already very broad today, encompassing everything from brakes, advanced driver assistance systems and their sensors to the elements of chassis control, the control of restraint systems, the use of navigation data and GPS position location to the electronic horizon and more. The range is continually growing in scope.

Restraint systems, such as seat belts and airbags, are a last resort for protecting vehicle occupants when all other available options for preventing an accident through further active interventions have been exhausted. There are a lot of forces at work on both the vehicle and the people inside it, so during an accident or loss of control situation, seat belts and airbags can only provide optimum protection if they are controlled and triggered at the right moment and in the right order.

To provide passive safety systems with situational intelligence, Continental networks them with sensors that supply information on the current driving situation, the driver’s intentions and more. As soon as the Airbag Control Unit (ACU) receives this information, high-performance algorithms can determine the nature of the situation earlier and adjust the passive protection flexibly to suit the situation.

“ACUs are now evolving into more comprehensive Safety Domain Control Units that deliver optimized protection in all situations,” ¬¬¬¬shared Matthias Matic, Head of Continental’s Hydraulic Brake Systems business unit. “For example, advanced powertrains, such as those used in hybrid and electric vehicles, present some unique challenges that call for sensors and integrated safety management of electronic parking brake, electric vacuum pump, electric power steering and other hardware. These kinds of vehicles recover energy when braking, through regenerative braking, but the brake has to feel the same to the driver at all times, so sensors are used to determine the driver’s braking intention. In addition, in an accident, the high-voltage battery must be cut off from the vehicle’s electrical system right away in order to protect the occupants and rescue teams from electric shocks.”

“We must also be cognizant that one of the greatest influences on stability is exerted by the driver, in the form of how much power is demanded via the accelerator. Continental has considered this crucial interface and developed it into an active Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP) that sends a discreet signal to the driver when it would be better to ease up on the gas — in the interest of safety, or simply to save fuel.”

Continental’s comprehensive Safety Domain Control Unit delivers optimized sensor protection. Its current SPEED XL unit (above) is scalable to meet various vehicle class and size requirements in all global markets.

Everyone — and Everything — Wants a Clear View
This includes cameras installed in the vehicle. Cameras, alongside radar and LiDAR, are the third type of surrounding sensor. Numerous safety assistance functions are being introduced on the basis of these cameras, with the result that they must be kept clean and ready for use at all times. However, due to the positions at which they are installed in the vehicle, cameras are exposed to the effect of the weather and dirt, for example, in the form of snow, ice, and dust. They therefore need to be cleaned when necessary to guarantee functionality.

Continental has developed a cleaning system for cameras that will be available in vehicles by 2019. The cleaning water is fed through a system of tubes from the water container to a nozzle that is mounted directly at the camera lens. The water pressure can be adjusted from 2.0 bar to 4.5 bar and can be defined individually by the vehicle manufacturer. The water jet passes across the curved surface of the lens and completely removes any dirt. Anti-freeze present in the water container prevents the water from freezing on the camera lens. Alternatively, heated cleaning systems are also available. In this case, a heating conductor is integrated in the water feed system and warms the supplied water to prevent it from freezing.

“Dirty camera lenses are a risk when driving," says Thomas Werner, Head of Development Washer Systems at Continental. "A basic prerequisite for safety assistance functions and emerging automated driving is the reliable detection and precise evaluation of the vehicle's environment. A ‘clear view’ is vital if camera sensors are to capture the surrounding and provide important surrounding data. With our camera cleaning system, we make sure that cameras are up and running whatever the weather conditions.”

The Road Condition Observer classifies the road condition on the basis of the evaluation of camera images of the surroundings in front of the car and comparison with vehicle dynamics data from the Electronic Stability Control (ESC), knowledge of local and regional weather data (temperature, wiper activity and cloud data) as well as the tire behavior. This data is used to determine a friction coefficient that can be used to adapt vehicle dynamics and handling. For example, when a low friction coefficient value is detected, the ESC’s and other actions can be instantly optimized accordingly.

Adapting Driving to Changing Road Conditions
Currently, it is solely the task of drivers to assess the weather conditions and observations and to combine it with observations of the vehicle surroundings to draw the correct conclusions on the alleged condition of the road. But even experienced drivers can misjudge how well the tires are gripping the road, especially on wet, icy or changing road conditions, which can often lead to accidents.

The automotive industry has been researching for years into methods for detecting the “available friction coefficient” as an interaction between tires and the road surface in a proactive way and to use this information to make vehicles and driving safer. This variable measures the force that a tire can apply to the road and is also known more simply as grip. Earlier attempts to discern this failed due to inadequate sensors and computing capacity that was either lacking or too expensive.

Continental has developed a new solution called Road Condition Observer (RCO) to mitigate this threat. RCO utilizes a specially developed algorithm detect the typical features for the four different road conditions — dry, wet, snow-covered and icy — that is undergoing advanced testing at select vehicle manufacturers. In the future the RCO will support the driver and allow Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) capable of detecting adverse conditions to react suitably and in good time.

“The Road Condition Observer uses sensors available in the vehicle to gain information on the grip of the road surface,” says Bernd Hartmann, Head of the Enhanced ADAS & Tire Interactions project group within the Advanced Engineering department of Continental’s Chassis & Safety division. “This knowledge allows us to adjust the functions of ADAS technologies to better suit he actual road conditions. For example, to prevent an impending collision, automatic emergency braking would be initiated considerably earlier on a wet road than on a dry one. In addition, as automated driving emerges, vehicles will need to know if the road ahead is icy so that it can drive safely around the next corner.

Continental says it is now able to deliver over-the-air (OTA) updates of electronic control units across the entire vehicle, from powertrain to infotainment systems, across the globe through a single network developed in conjunction with Inmarsat, its mobile satellite communications partner. Continental recently demonstrated its capabilities at the 2017 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Vehicle-Wide Over-the-Air Software Via Satellites are now a Reality
Step by step, the vehicle is becoming part of the Internet of Things (IoT), connected and interfacing with an ever-expanding spectrum of vehicle manufacturer and commercial services. Consequently, the software in modern vehicles has grown to millions of lines of ever-evolving code. Keeping this highly complex system of software, mechatronics and electronics up-to-date, let alone installing new software functions post sale, has typically involved a trip to the auto repair shops in most cases.

Continental has been helping vehicle manufacturers solve this problem with over-the-air (OTA) updates for more than ten years and has been supplying automakers with many products that are capable of being updated over-the-air to different vehicle manufacturers. Continental is expanding its portfolio to enable OTA updates of electronic control units across the entire vehicle from powertrain to infotainment systems.

Besides communication networks, other connected vehicle architecture — such as windshield wiper sensors, fog lights, or ABS and ESP to obtain data on temperature, air pressure and visibility or information on road conditions — is enabling Continental to apply its eHorizon technology to many new uses,” shared Jean-Yves Le-Gall, Design & Innovation Manager in Continental´s Interior Division. “We are currently testing a vehicle swarm weather service that uses real-time data and optimizes weather information to inform drivers of traffic conditions in advance to increase safety, convenience and efficiency. In addition, we are also leveraging onboard sensors and telematics units to analyze data predictive maintenance alerts.”

The growing number of connected vehicles worldwide is driving an increased frequency of updates that demand a scalable, global solution. “Until recently the number of electronic control units in the vehicle connected directly or indirectly to the cloud has been extremely limited and the demand for updates was low,” explained Helmut Matschi, member of the Executive Board at Continental and head of its Interior Division. “But uploading new functions, greater system complexity as well as the high need for security and safety has created a strong need for over-the-air updates.”

In response, Continental has teamed up with Inmarsat, a company that operates multiple geostationary satellite constellations that provide a two-way data connection combined with a global broadcast capability to enable rapid, responsive and efficient over-the-air updates to vehicles everywhere. “Continental and Inmarsat are now able offer automakers the ability to provide over-the-air updates around the globe for the entire vehicle electronics suite with the simple push of a button.”

This will allow Continental’s customers to deploy worldwide update campaigns at, bypassing the complexity of dealing with multiple mobile network operators and inconvenient service facility visits. “Satellite broadcast services will also be a key enabler of the connected car,” Matschi added. “We can now offer automakers the most efficient and secure means to deliver common content to millions of vehicles — from vehicle software and cybersecurity updates to precise positioning data.”

These and other technologies flow into a comprehensive 360° environment model, a prerequisite for a comprehensive understanding of the overall driving scenario that will soon incorporate telematics, automated driving and even more connectivity. Generated through the fusion of different information sources — including road geometry, localization and traffic regulation recognition, model-based tracking of moving objects as well as the identification of free space play.

This comprehensive set data collected from underhood and undercar technologies, soon to be communicated via extraterrestrial satellites, will form the basis for safer driving in every type of weather, be it conventional or automated. It also serves notice to automotive facilities and technicians that the current model for service and repair continues to ride the wave of change.

[Editor's note: Visit for the latest diagnostic and service insights.]

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