Technology company, Continental is researching and developing a series of production technologies suitable for use in robo-taxis. Already this year, Continental’s technology for driverless vehicles will be in production for the first time in French company EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle.
“The technological building blocks that enable robo-taxis to operate are available in principle and have been tried and tested in practice. However, we now have to intelligently, safely, and efficiently put them together to form an overall picture,” said Andree Hohm, Director of Driverless Mobility at Continental.
The central development platform for this work is the CUbE, a small driverless shuttle based on the EZ10 platform. The aim is not to develop the CUbE into a production vehicle, but to get a range of Continental technologies, such as brake systems and surroundings sensors market-ready so that they can be used in the series production of robo-taxis. Hohm added: “Customers developing driverless mobility systems should be able to draw from a wide array of high-performance products and solutions with Continental. We are setting the course for that. At the same time, our global activities are addressing local particularities.”
For a robo-taxi to drive autonomously, it must first detect its surroundings reliably, accurately, and completely. It does this using vehicle surroundings sensors such as cameras, radar, and lasers. With the aid of the CUbE, Continental has developed a production-ready radar system especially for driverless vehicles. The vehicle can generate a 360-degree image of its environment by combining the data from different sensor technologies. This, in turn, ensures redundancy and a higher level of accuracy not previously achieved, because radar systems function independent of visibility conditions and can even see through objects such as parked cars and detect the street corner behind them.
Continental’s radar sensor, which will be used in the EZ10 autonomous shuttle from EasyMile later this year, detects the vehicle’s environment within a radius of up to 200 meters. The vehicle is equipped with a total of seven radar sensors, as well as laser sensors and cameras. This allows the location to be precisely determined and, at the same time, early detection of obstacles and potentially critical situations. Tried-and-tested products from high-volume car production are intelligently networked and adapted to one another to make them suitable for a completely new type of mobility.
A dual safeguard, at minimum, is not only a necessity for monitoring the surroundings in driverless vehicles, but also for the brake systems. Continental’s portfolio includes suitable technologies, such as the MK C1 one-box brake system, which has been in series production since 2016 and combines ABS, ESC, and a brake booster. For use in autonomous vehicles, the one-box brake system is combined with a Hydraulic Brake Extension that can, in conjunction with ABS, safely brake the vehicle in the highly unlikely event of primary brake failure. Full braking functionality is therefore guaranteed.
In the new combination, they form the redundant and production-ready MK C1 HAD brake system for highly automated driving and for driverless mobility applications. The MK C1 HAD offers an additional safety benefit in that the electromechanically generated maximum brake pressure is achieved after only 150 milliseconds. This means that automated vehicles without driver intervention can be brought to a standstill more rapidly than would be possible with conventional brake systems. The ABS function represents an additional feature, because robo-taxis have not been equipped with a system of this type until now. The technology will become especially important when driverless vehicles are on the road in wintry road conditions. Vehicle dynamics systems such as ABS, ESC, and traction control will enable vehicles to pull away safely on icy roads and provide maximum traction on slippery slopes or during braking.
Robo-taxis in the form of small buses are typically higher and have a higher centre of gravity than conventional cars to allow passengers to enter and exit the vehicle comfortably in an upright position. This is where a predictive driving dynamics system comes into play to ensure safe and stable handling in bends. This is also part of the range of innovative and high-performance vehicle control systems from Continental.