Q. What are the top three technology areas which capture your maximum attention?
Of course, autonomous mobility. We see that as a trend and a change factor in the mobility sector. The second is the all-around user experience, displays, and the display into the car. The third element is connectivity, connecting the car to the outside world supported by powerful infrastructure that we call HPC (High Performance Computer. It is a big performance computer into the car, and is the next trend to come. And that is where we are investing heavily.
Q. What are the key technologies that Continental is betting on for cleaner, safer, and more sustainable mobility?
We do believe that everything around safety and autonomous mobility will be a booming market and therefore we are extremely strong in that field with components, solutions and software around that.
We also do believe that it’s all about differentiation and everything around displays and user experience. These are the driving factors for our business in the future. And last but not least, the trend of a connected car with the telematic ability to upgrade software.
Q. The automobile is becoming increasingly software-defined. From that perspective, what level of software content do you expect in the passenger vehicle segment, and on the other hand, in the commercial vehicle segment in the next four or five years?
First of all, this industry is incredibly speeding now, and driving fast for the transformation. We do believe that in the passenger car segment, vehicles that are going to come to the market in the next 4-6 years will be completely different from the ones of today. We are working in advance with our customers on new architecture, new way of developing the vehicle. This starts with a powerful high performance computer and zone controller. But on top of that, as you mentioned, software is playing a key role.
Almost 90% of the innovation is going to come from software. For that we need to set the right software into the car which starts with an operating system and we want to enable our customers to move that way.
Secondly, features will arrive in the car which will update the car regularly with new functions, of course to please the customer, but also for other aspects like cybersecurity. And with this being said we do see in that field a huge booming market and along with it the necessity to invest in competencies in technology.
90% of the innovations are going to come out of the software. For that we need to set the right software into the car which starts with an operating system~
Q. Continental, like some of its industry peers, is also looking at tapping India not only as a market but also as a development and engineering base. Could you tell us about the new crop of ideas, or new set of technologies or innovations that you’re looking at India for?
I can say that we at Continental recognize India as an extremely strategic country for. Here we started to operate in 2008 in both directions — developing and producing products, and also in engineering. We have more than 6000 people working in engineering, and more than 4000 of them are working in software development. Therefore, in the early stages itself we recognized India as a key market.
We always think global and act local. Therefore, we also want to be for the market in the market, which means having the competence to also locally develop products for all markets and of course offering solutions for local players. Therefore, you will find people working for the big carmakers in India. They also have global roles and support other locations, in all aspects of Continental’s portfolio.
We have multi competencies in India, a major factor of success because we have teams which collaborate with each other to create new solutions out of the existing technology or mastering the next generation technologies.
Q. The cabin and the cockpit, especially of the passenger vehicles, are changing rapidly. How do you see the passenger car’s cockpit changing in, say 5, or even 2 years down the lane?
In the past the cockpit was more or less the space for the driver. Now, the car’s cockpit is an alignment where people are spending time. And if we connect this to the fact that autonomous driving will come when in a traffic jam you would probably like to do something else while holding the steering wheel, then we need to think about the cockpit in a different way.
Secondly, the technologies have become accessible for us now to offer a revolution, which is to offer more or less on demand new displays like pillar to pillar. Imagine that you have a pretty large display going from the left to the right side of the car. Here you can display all possible information in a fully safe way so that the driver cannot watch a video, but you can also offer a new experience of mobility for the passenger next to the driver. And that is one game changer where we are pretty advanced with what we call pillar to pillar, curved display now, where we offer high technology with displays appearing below the skin of the dashboard.
And not to forget with head-up display technology that we can offer on the windshield enhanced information with which you can really create a completely different user experience. We want to push all of that on the market because that is differentiation for us to help our customers.
We have more than 6000 people working in engineering (in India), and more than 4000 of them are working in software development~
Q. What is the next level of your head up display in terms of value or information that it will offer without distracting the driver?
The main evolution for us is to map virtual information to the real environment, to put elements in perspective, to help the driver look ahead and to recognize objects, to direct his attention to some elements and enhance safety, in a way that doesn’t fill the driver’s mind with useless information. What it means is that to put the right intelligence into the HMI (Human Machine Interface) system.
For example, you may not be the same when you drive in the morning feeling fresh or in the evening, when you may be tired. Or say, it’s a weekend. We are also thinking and looking at a system where we can understand the situation of the driver by monitoring the driver, and then adapt and provide appropriate insight depending on the time the driver is in the car. With these elements we will make the personalization precise, and valuable.
Q. All these developments in displays are good in terms of technology, but there is also another viewpoint which says that there should be a line drawn to ensure that it does not end up compromising safety of the passengers, or pedestrians because driver distraction could be potentially fatal.
It cannot be that being a leader in terms of passive and active safety, we leave the door open for distraction while driving. And therefore, all systems, and we continue to invest also massively in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) functions. And Level 2 to enhance security into the car through our vehicle dynamic solution braking system as well, where we continue to invest to increase the car’s passive safety.
We are also now using the power of artificial intelligence with what we call driver information where we can recognize drowsiness. We can also check the hands of the driver. And if something goes wrong, to stop the car. Something we are promoting as innovation is to prevent people looking at their mobile phone while driving and giving advice not to do so, or taking measures to keep the car safe. In all of these, information is extremely important.
Q. In India autonomous driving is a relatively new phenomenon in the availability of ADAS features in volume segment vehicles. How do you see the adoption of autonomous driving technology in markets like India?
We have conducted a study this year to understand the expectations of end-customers. The respondents, about 6000 people, say that is also valid for India, ‘yes, safety, we are ready to invest in additional safety and we do see the power of autonomous mobility, but we need of course to balance that and we expect the industry to make improvements to make it affordable’.
That means technology, but affordable. And that is extremely important for us and we are always looking at when technology reaches a point of democratisation, where we can go to a mass market. We are in the process, especially with the colleagues of Bengaluru, to make solutions that are affordable for the market step by step. But looking at the infrastructure in India, I think we have an interesting situation because there are of course a lot of use cases, you probably only see in India.
Mastering this in terms of complexity, drivers, driving conditions, cohabitation of two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers, buses and trucks, are for us a playground to develop the technology. And it’s not a surprise that we have extremely strong teams working on these components and technology, also out of Bengaluru, for the big OEMs locally, and also for Continental’s global portfolio by offering this technology abroad.