Continental banks on Asia
Faced with saturated markets and dropping market share, leading international components suppliers are looking at Asia, and India, to grow their footprint.
The company supplies ABS and airbag control units (ACUs) for the Maruti Suzuki Swift, boosters and ACUs for the Renault Logan and components like calipers, brake hoses, wheel speed sensors, ABS and boosters for Ford Fusion.
On December 11, Continental AG announced its entry into the Indian market with the launch of its premium tyres for passenger cars and utility vehicles. This is the company's first direct tyre initiative in the Indian market as it recognises India's present and future potential. As a global company, and with a current yearly production volume of over 100 million tyres, it plans to develop a strong presence in the Indian aftermarket as well as seize possible opportunities with OE manufacturers.
Meanwhile, the Chassis and Safety division of the 25 billion euro (Rs 1,55,338 crore) Continental Corporation is expecting Asia to almost double its share of sales by 2015. Currently, the division has worldwide sales of euros 4.6 billion, of which Asia contributes 13 percent.
This was highlighted by Dietmar Siemssen, president and CEO, member of the Management Board of Continental based in Japan. At present Germany with 34 percent is the largest, followed by Europe (excluding Germany) with 29 percent, NAFTA 21 percent and Asia 13 percent.
Terming it as the most dynamic region in the world at present, Siemssen said that Asia represents over 100 automakers ranging from global players to regional niche manufacturers. “Incremental production growth in Asia in the next five years equals total US production today — more than two-thirds the worldwide volume growth will be generated in Asia,” he said in his presentation ‘Driving Safety & Dynamics to Asia’ to journalists in Frankfurt recently. He further noted that in 2015 the sourcing decision of every second car worldwide will be made in Asia, thereby reiterating the increasing role of Asian countries to boost sales of automotive products.
Continuing with the presentation, Dr Peter Rieth, senior vice-president, systems and technology of Continental’s Chassis and Safety division, said that his company’s endeavour is to integrate active and passive safety to ensure high standards of road safety.
A typical example of mitigating the effect of a front or rear crash is the integration of ABS brake assist and front airbag. Dr Rieth said that the company got its motivation for pushing its engineering prowess more so from the fact that BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are expected to enforce stringent safety norms like ABS, ESC and airbags mandatory between 2015 and 2020. This would fuel the demand for several of its products in these countries.
New brake system
Continental plans to launch a new-generation electronic brake system in 2011, which is expected to significantly benefit countries in Asia, especially India. The new MK 100 brake system makes it possible to install Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) in all vehicle categories, including motorcycles. It will gradually replace Continental’s current brake system models and, thanks to its modular design, also has the potential to meet the demands of the fast growing markets in eastern Europe and Asia.
According to company officials, the MK 100’s range of function can be scaled to suit all functionality and level of performance is required — from a motorcycle ABS with or without an integral braking function right up to demanding high-end ESC designs with their powerful, low-pulsation pump variants. The design concept will produce added functional value even for price-driven, entry level versions. The officials maintain that the range of safety and assistance functions which, depending on what the vehicle manufacturer wants, can be incorporated with the MK 100 ESC.
The range extends from active rollover protection (ARP) via trailer stability assist (TSA), hill start assist (HSA) and full speed range adaptive cruise control (ACC) to complex, autonomous overlay functions for stabilising the vehicle.
The MK 100 also makes servicing much simpler as the braking system is permanently monitored by the electronics which will automatically detect and configure any components which have been exchanged. There is no further need for time-consuming calibration procedures, thereby adding to the system’s robustness, enhancing customer safety and reducing both servicing costs and time spent in the workshop.
The company claims that the one significant benefit is the tremendous integratability. For example, the number of components and interfaces has been reduced by integrating the sensor cluster (yaw rate and acceleration sensors) into the MK 100’s control unit as standard. Thanks to its modular structure, the MK 100 is ideally suited to meeting any future requirements and can be seamlessly integrated into the Contiguard system. Contiguard is an integrated safety concept that merges superior automotive components and profound systems know-how.
With Contiguard, Continental has embarked on an integrated safety system in which every active and passive function of safety relevance including the corresponding environment sensor system is fully integrated.
New safety products
Continental has also announced the production of several new safety-related products for vehicles worldwide. It has made the first accelerator pedal that communicates with the driver. The accelerator pedal, now being installed by a Japanese carmaker, represents a unique safety engineering technology which the company is introducing to world markets for the first time.
The Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal (AFFP) gives warning to hazardous situations by vibrating and exerting counter pressure in the accelerator pedal. This should make the driver take his foot off the pedal and get ready to brake. This technology is an extension to Continental’s Contiguard safety system and represents a further contribution to reducing the number of road traffic injuries, particularly as a result of rear-end collisions.
The intelligent accelerator can also help the driver to drive at a more even speeds and therefore more economically with the aim of reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Continental’s lane departure warning driver assistance system alerts the driver before the vehicle is about to leave the lane. The system is installed in passenger cars but is also ready for series production use in trucks. The centrepiece of this intelligent driver assistance system is a camera, installed close to the rearview mirror and directed forwards at the road markings in front of the car. The camera’s electronics anaylse the images and calculate whether the car is about to depart from its lane. The driver’s attention is drawn to this danger, typically by vibrations in the steering wheel or by gentle steering interventions. The warning is suppressed when the driver operates the turn indicator for changing lanes.
Similarly, the company has also developed a blind spot detection system to monitor the blind spot, especially when changing lanes. Radar sensors monitor the road area behind and next to the vehicle and also sound an alarm if the driver tries to pull out even if there is no gap.
Continental has also introduced adaptive cruise control which ensures automatic safe vehicle spacing even at high speeds. Like any standard cruise control system, it maintains a constant chosen speed by easing back when going downhill and increasing power uphill. However, in addition, it uses its radar or infra red sensors to monitor the traffic in front. Before you get too close to the vehicle in front, ACC either reduces engine power or gently applies the brakes until the gap is again appropriate.
The base technology of the chassis controller is already in use in certain models produced by a German carmaker. In future, innovative technologies will further enhance the chassis controller’s performance capacity and streamline its design, paving the way for implementation of additional features of Contiguard.
The company has developed an innovative central control unit that can process all information from a wide array of assistance and safety systems centrally. The controller is especially impressive because of one clear advantage: reducing the number of sensors also drives down the level of complexity of the vehicle’s electronics systems. Systems that have worked autonomously unit now can be networked together.
According to Continental officials, modern cars can have as many as half a dozen or more individual control systems for assistance and comfort systems installed. The new chassis controller can reduce the level of complexity involved with the individual control units because of the chassis controller; integrated sensors can be used by different control systems at the same time, saving computing capacity. It is an important component of the Contiguard safety concept and another step towards achieving ‘Vision Zero’— the vision of enhancing people’s safety in traffic, noted Dr Rieth.
Car-to car communication
The car to car communication now being introduced by Continental offers drivers the ‘view round the corner’, thus providing a little more safety. A GPS module of the type used for navigation, a microprocessor and the automotive variant of the wireless local area network (WLAN) ensures that a hazard warning including a precise location is transmitted to all vehicles equipped with the same technology with a radius of up to 500 metres. The warning signal is initiated either by switching on the hazard warning flasher system or automatically, if for example the car’s ECS has realised that the road surface is smooth as a mirror etc. It is possible for two vehicles to warn each other: for instance, if one of them is in the other’s blind spot when overtaking or if both cars are approaching the same intersection at high speed. If a driver has to make an emergency stop and the ABS is active, the car behind can be given an early warning. As well as using the traditional siren, rescue services like the police and fire service can also use wireless technology to demand the right way. In-car display can give drivers early warning that the rescue ambulance is approaching from the side, for example, so that they can react to in good time.
Information of this type can be transmitted not only from car to car but also the nearest traffic management centres by sensors installed along the roads in traffic lights or traffic management signs. This is referred to as car to infrastructure communication.
With all these innovative technological advanced products finding their way into vehicles worldwide, Continental is hopeful that in the near future incidents of road mishaps can be reduced drastically and human lives saved.
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