By T Murrali
Continental Automotive GmbH has launched a new technology called eHorizon with three stages – static, connected and dynamic – to help reduce the cost of ownership and operation of vehicles through better safety and fuel efficiency.
Static is already in place and Continental is, at the point, introducing connected eHorizon where the collected data can be shared with other trucks, particularly where no topological data is available. This allows more up-to-date and detailed information to be added to a digital map. Information can also be generated for routes that previously had incomplete map data.
“Brazil and China are much interested in eHorizon technology. This data can be used to prevent accidents and avoid traffic jams. We have a tie-up with Google Earth for this”, Dr Michael Jorg Ruf, Head, Business Unit Commercial Vehicles and Aftermarket, Continental Automotive GmbH, told AutoParts Asia.
The final evolutionary step of eHorizon would be automatic driving or partly automated driving – simplified driving- that would take all the stress away from the driver with the interior camera that would bring his attention back to the road.
There were many areas where the commercial vehicles would make use of this technology and also in the HMI (Human Machine Interface), where this configurable cluster in the trucks, with connections and multimedia, could help the driver in the area of safety by ensuring that he is not distracted. “The data from the cloud controls the speed of the powertrain and sets the speed accordingly by taking into account the obstacles that may crop up on the road during the drive. It also takes into account the traffic signs and this is where we see a lot of potential in saving energy. For example, you can increase speed to cross a green traffic light before it turns red, you don’t have to brake and lose energy,” he said.
Continental has five divisions, Chassis & Safety, Interior, Powertrain, Tyre, and ContiTech. In 2014, the corporation generated sales of approximately €34.5 billion. The Commercial Vehicles and Aftermarket Business Unit accommodates the specific requirements of the commercial vehicle, special vehicle and aftermarket sector. This business unit develops and produces products that make commercial and special vehicles safer, cleaner,more fuel-efficient and makes their use in day-to-day business more efficient.
The digital mirrors technology is going into serious development. It will come into commercial vehicles and arrive soon in Europe. Fuel efficiency saved will be two to three percent. For the American trucks which are aero-dynamic, getting rid of these mirrors will not pay so much. eHorizon could save up to five percent. Since the additional cost is very low, after a short period it pays off.
The digital mirror system is still costly. “But the good thing is you can do more with it – blind-spot detection on an optical base, you can detect the presence of two-and-three-wheelers while doing turns. This is what some of the OEs will now go for,” he said.
The Continental products would be flexible to cater to a large number of variances. “For example, for one truck manufacturer we are doing two different versions that will cover all their trucks with different population options. For the OEMs it is a matter of being recognised as a technology leader so they will do it even if the cost is not competitive. The benefits are hard to achieve. Still some of the OEMs are willing to spend that additional amount of money”, Ruf said.
Internet In Trucks
Internet in trucks is different from that in the passenger vehicles. In the truck it is important that the driver does not get distracted while using the internet. In the commercial vehicles the priority is to make sure that the driver does something more than just driving. For instance in autonomous driving for trucks the driver has free time to do something more than monitoring the truck.
“There are two aspects important for commercial vehicles. First, the driver could work on his logistics, his report and other work- related stuff – he doesn’t have to do it later on. This saves time which the fleet owners are interested in. We have a technology called ‘Interior Camera’ which is a camera mounted in the area of the cluster. It monitors the driver and can recognise if he is actually looking at the road or somewhere else. All the sensors monitor the road and in case something happens which the driver is not looking at or is unaware of, there are means to alert the driver and bring his attention back to where the hazard is taking place. We have the technology that makes it safer for the driver and the OEs,” he said.
When it comes to weight reduction the pressure is not that high in CVs as compared to passenger cars. Nevertheless, everybody is happy if we can reduce the number of components. “When we account for all the sensors, we come to the point of sensor fusion. All the information goes into one controller that takes everything into account. With this we can derive more accurate information from the raw data coming in. Here the software plays a vital role. This is needed when it comes to automated driving,” he said.
The global company develops products under the umbrella of software security. A component gets hacked when someone gets access to the car. Therefore, every access has to be secured. With all the vehicles becoming more and more connected to the outside world by different means, unauthorised access to the car is possible. “What we do is secure that line to the outside world; we are collaborating with Cisco to do the utmost possible. The hazard is there and my personal view is that this problem will increase. Everybody has to work together, the OEMs, the suppliers, the manufacturers, to make access as secure as possible. Time and effort is going in to prevent this from happening,” Ruf said.
Accessing hardware could damage a set or batch of vehicles while software access could damage a phenomenally large number. One software can open the door to all vehicles; however one software could also close that door. “We have put many encryptions in place with cooperation from Cisco.” he said.
Automation In India
Ruf said automatic driving in India depends on the type of roads available. “There are certain vehicles where it makes sense and others where it doesn’t. In the long haul, on highways, it is absolutely necessary, even in India,” he opined.
For Continental, the priorities for India, he said answering a specific question, “are satisfying our customers with the right solutions and bettering the instrument cluster so that the driver gets some relief from stress for better safety. We hope future legislation will cover this aspect.” The other focus areas of Continental for India include improving the power train to reduce fuel consumption by using the latest technologies; reduce the wind-drag on trucks on highways; develop customised solutions to meet customer needs specific to India; make use of platform solutions for clusters and control units with respect to OEMs; replace ‘global’ with ‘local’ wherever possible and make use of the Continental Technology Centre and local R&D team keeping costs in mind, he concluded.