Scientists and developers from technology company Continental, based in North America, Europe, and Asia, are working to produce established series production technologies ideal for use in robo-taxis.
Although it is still infrequent on public roads at present, driverless robo-taxis will become an integral part of mobility in urban centers, helping to increase efficiency and decrease traffic congestion.
In 2019, Continental’s technology for driverless vehicles will be manufactured for the first time in French company EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle. Since 2017, Continental has owned a share in this driverless vehicle producer.
Tailor-Made Technologies for Driverless Mobility Systems
Continental has produced a production-ready radar system exclusively developed for driverless vehicles. The vehicle can produce a 360° image of its environment by integrating the data from various sensor technologies, guaranteeing redundancy and a higher level of accuracy than before. The operation of these radar systems does not depend on the visibility conditions and these systems can even “see through” objects like parked cars.
The CUbE, a small driverless shuttle based on the EZ10 platform, is the central development platform for this study. The goal is not to advance the CUbE into a production vehicle, rather, it is to obtain an array of Continental technologies, like brake systems and surrounding sensors, market-ready so that they can be employed in robo-taxi series production.
The technological building blocks that enable robo-taxis originate from high-volume car production and have been adapted for this new type of mobility. While driverless vehicles are by their very nature revolutionary, the process will take place in evolutionary steps, in this instance drawing on the wide array of high-performance products and solutions from Continental.
Jeremy McClain, Director of Systems & Technology, Continental North America
Continental’s radar sensor, which will be employed in EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle later this year, senses the vehicle’s environment within a radius of up to 200 m. The vehicle is fitted with seven radar sensors, as well as cameras and laser sensors. These sensors enable the vehicle to find its exact location, while sensing hindrances and potentially serious cases in advance.
Redundant Brake Systems and ABS Functions for Robo-Taxis
Continental’s braking collection comprises ideal technologies for robo-taxis, for example, the MK C1 one-box brake system. Since 2016, this system has been in series production and integrates ESC, ABS, and a brake booster. In autonomous vehicles, the one-box brake system is integrated with a Hydraulic Brake Extension that can, together with ABS, safely slow down the vehicle in the highly improbable occasion of primary brake failure.
Jointly, these systems make the production-ready MK C1 HAD brake system for highly automated driving and driverless mobility applications. The MK C1 HAD provides an added safety advantage: the electromechanically produced maximum brake pressure is attained only after 150 milliseconds. This implies that without driver involvement, automated vehicles can now be brought to a standstill more rapidly in comparison with traditional brake systems.
This is the first time robo-taxis have been fitted with the ABS function, which will become particularly imperative when driverless vehicles are on the road in cold conditions. Vehicle dynamics systems like ABS, ESC, and traction control will allow vehicles to drive safely on icy roads and offer maximum traction on slippery slopes or during braking.
Furthermore, robo-taxis that are the size of small buses usually have a higher center of gravity when compared to traditional cars, enabling passengers to comfortably enter and exit the vehicle in an upright position. A predictive driving dynamics system can guarantee safe and stable handling around curves—now part of the series of innovative and high-performance vehicle control systems from Continental.
Research at Locations Worldwide with a Single Objective: the Robo-Taxi of the Future
A global network in the United States, Germany, China, Japan, and Singapore has been carrying out the development of these technologies. At these places, research and development work is performed with various prominences, each leveraging the CUbE platform with the same objective of future generations of safe and efficient robo-taxis.
In fanatical regions, for example, on company locations or on particular roads in clearly defined urban areas, driverless mobility services are operational nowadays. However, it is expected to take nearly another 10 years for the robo-taxis to become a usual sight in typical traffic.
Thanks to a grant from Michigan’s PlanetM mobility initiative, which supports companies in testing their technologies for future mobility, Continental, EasyMile, Oakland University, and the City of Auburn Hills in Michigan are ready to execute the pilot operation of an autonomous shuttle.
The pilot will start in late August and continue up to six months. The driverless shuttle will be set up on the premises of Oakland University, an extensive and hilly college campus where navigation between buildings can be a problem for students and staff.
During the pilot, Continental will combine its Zonar technology, which allows vehicle inspections through the Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)-based Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting (EVIR) system. The EVIR system acquires, records, and sends out inspection, maintenance, and compliance data to the operator.
Furthermore, the Zonar Z Pass technology identifies when and where the passengers enter and exit the vehicle. The objective of this pilot project is to get experience in the operation of driverless vehicles and to gather empirical data that will be combined in the technological development of these vehicles.
Continental creates pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. Established in 1871, the technology company provides efficient, safe, affordable, and intelligent solutions for machines, vehicles, traffic, and transportation. In 2018, Continental made sales of €44.4 billion and presently provides work to approximately 245,000 people in 60 countries and markets.