Continental Sees Opportunity to Expand Tire-Sensor Technology

Continental plans to expand its business in sensors and chassis systems that will enable semi- or fully autonomous driving in the coming decade. The German supplier expects that its unique in-tire air-pressure monitor will play a part in that development.

Bob Gritzinger, Editor-in-Chief

September 29, 2015

2 Min Read
Continental CEO Degenhart says smart tire technology will help reach zeroaccident goal
Continental CEO Degenhart says smart tire technology will help reach zero-accident goal.

FRANKFURT – Continental says its existing in-tire sensor technology has far-reaching capabilities to provide road-surface level information needed to enable autonomous driving, pushing well beyond the sensor’s current simple tire-pressure monitoring role.

The existing Tire Pressure Monitoring System from Continental, now in use in commercial tires and available for aftermarket passenger tires, attaches directly to the inner tire wall and transmits its signal from inside the rotating tire. Most tire-pressure sending units are mounted on the valve stem and are limited in what they can detect.

Continental says its “smart” monitor has the advantage of being able to measure not only tire pressure, but also tire and ambient temperature, wear, stress and road surfaces, enabling onboard computers to better assess lane position or even whether one tire has left the road.

“In the future, we will be installing sensors in the tires which will enable the car to detect the condition of the road surface,” says Continental CEO Elmar Degenhart, in a presentation at the Frankfurt auto show. “Tires will therefore become a key part of our sensor network in the car. On this basis, we are working on a complete system for anticipatory driving that is able to learn.”

Degenhart says about 60% of his company’s automotive sales center on advanced driver-assistance systems and related digital technology, with sales exceeding €12 billion ($13.5 billion) in 2014. He expects growth in that area to outperform the average of the automotive sector in the coming five years.

“We anticipate fully automated driving in certain driving situations to be ready from 2025 onwards,” Degenhart says. “Fully automated means that drivers can devote much of their time to other activities from the start to the end of the trip.”

Enabling Autonomous Driving

Nikolai Setzer, Continental executive board member-tire division, explains the tire sensors would work in concert with other sensors, such as radar and cameras, to provide redundant information to assist the on-board computers in determining a vehicle’s location on or off a road surface.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Frankfurt show, Setzer notes Continental has the advantage of being the only tire manufacturer in the world with an automotive division, giving the German company a unique edge to cooperatively develop sensors, software and chassis systems needed to enable semi- or fully autonomous driving in the coming decade.

Continental’s July acquisition of Elektrobit considerably improved the company’s capability to develop the necessary software to better enable Continental’s hardware to assist in autonomous driving, Setzer adds.

Setzer says Continental is forging ahead in developing its smart-tire technology, which has drawn interest from a number of automakers, but so far has no firm commitments.

“The hardware is there, but now we need to determine the benefit to the customer,” says Setzer.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Gritzinger

Editor-in-Chief, WardsAuto

Bob Gritzinger is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto and also covers Advanced Propulsion & Technology for Wards Intelligence.

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