International automotive supplier Continental is taking advantage of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas (7 January  to 10 January 2014) to present product innovations in automotive electronics to its customers. Continental is, for one thing, highlighting advanced developments nearing production maturity in the areas of instrumentation, high-performance environmental sensors, and connectivity. The automotive supplier views CES 2014 as the perfect location for documenting step-by-step advanced development of vehicle systems in the direction of automated driving.

“At CES 2014, we are showcasing product innovations that can flow directly into series vehicle development. What is particularly significant here is the merging of consumer electronics with vehicle electronics”, explains Helmut Matschi, member of the Continental Executive Board and head of the Interior division.

The Connected Electronic Horizon

Continental is collaborating with IBM on the next generation of the Electronic Horizon. Knowing what is up ahead on the road, a vehicle’s electronics can do a better job of ensuring safer, economical, and more comfortable driving. So far, static electronic card data has been available to the vehicle’s different control units. In the future, the Connected Electronic Horizon will add sensor data from networked vehicles (V2X, Vehicle-2-X) to static card data. Benefiting from real-time crowdsourcing, vehicles will ultimately be able to “see around corners.” For this purpose, a high-performance computer network – the backend – prepares data from a variety of sources in such a way that all other vehicles can access this traffic data in more or less real time. At CES, IBM and Continental are showcasing a simulation in which very exact route data can be collected and made available to other vehicles on the basis of crowdsourcing. This is one element from Continental’s development project for automated driving.

Greater contrast and bold colors: OLED displays make their way into the car

Today, color fidelity and clear OLED displays in particular are proving their worth in millions of smartphones. Offering particularly strong contrast and capable of displaying bold colors with no background lighting at all, this technology had long failed to realize the leap to the ever-larger displays used in cars. The requirements of the automotive industry with regard to ambient temperatures and usage times had effectively kept OLED out of vehicle interiors. In the meantime, Continental developers have achieved a technical coup: Special Continental electronics at work in the background should be able to ensure that an OLED display in an instrument cluster or infotainment screen is up to meeting the requirements of the automotive industry even after years of service in the vehicle.

Wireless charging and smooth integration: the smartphone arrives in the car

Motorists wish to be able to make greater use of smartphone options while driving. This is an important trend in the automotive industry ̶ and therefore for Continental as well.

“Our aim is for drivers to be able to access at will any of the cell phone’s functions. In the interest of safety, though, these functions must always be operated using the vehicle’s human machine interface,” notes Matschi.

One of the solutions Continental is working on is using standardized near field communication (NFC). In a Continental prototype, Bluetooth capability can be dramatically simplified using NFC. A Bluetooth connection is automatically established as soon as the cell phone is in the vicinity of the NFC reader. Continental is also showcasing wireless in-vehicle charging of cell phones. At CES 2014, the automotive supplier is presenting a charging system based on the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi standard for wireless charging. Continental is also demonstrating how the cell phone can be wirelessly connected to the external antenna of the car to improve reception quality. A further smartphone connection is achieved with the prototypes of new instrument clusters. Here, navigation and other information from the cell phone is fed directly into the instrument cluster. This way, the data can be ideally presented in the driver’s field of vision.

4G/LTE for all vehicle classes

Continental has already produced more than 26 million telematics units for various cellular networks worldwide. To ensure the vehicle has a reliable broadband Internet hookup, the automotive supplier offers an ultra flat telematics board that can be used worldwide. It satisfies the growing demand for fast in-vehicle online connectivity.

“In our electronics, we attach great value to real automotive capability,” explains Hans Hiebl, head of the Infotainment & Connectivity business unit at Continental. “We rely on special methods for development, production, and testing. This enables us to provide a telematics module suited to the different LTE standards worldwide and are ready to cope with all adverse conditions in the vehicle.”

Seat heating of the future – right in the cover material

At CES 2014, Continental’s Benecke-Kaliko subsidiary is staging the world premiere of its new seat surface material with integrated heating. In the seat on display – a massage seat with smartphone connection – the new cover material demonstrates its edge over conventional upholstery heating. The areas to be heated can be chosen much more flexibly, the heat reaches the driver or passenger noticeably faster, and the seat heating system. At the same time, this system manages to consume much less energy. This is achieved through the incorporation of a conductive layer in the upper material – in the form of either a textile that is conductive itself or conductive coating printed onto a textile. It is possible, for example, to have the back of the seat a few degrees warmer than the rest of the seat, allowing the seat to provide soothing thermal comfort where many people needed it most. The sides of the seat are covered with eco-friendly Acella® Eco natural from Benecke-Kaliko, and the seat areas are covered with heatable Benova® PU material.

High-performance environmental sensors pave the way for automated driving

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are considered a key technology when it comes to increasing driving safety. They are also an important prerequisite for automated driving. High-performance environmental sensors are important for new driver assistance systems. With the stereo camera, Continental has already a new approach in monitoring a vehicle’s surrounding. It can help prevent or at least reduce the seriousness of accidents involving pedestrians or other vehicles. This makes a significant contribution to improved pedestrian and passenger protection. The same applies to Continental’s long- and short-range radars. These realize optimum object recognition thanks to accurate target separation and a high degree of precision in combination with a wide field of view. Continental is also showcasing systems for 360-degree surround detection (surround view). All these systems contribute in a major way to accident-free driving and are essential technologies for automated driving.

Innovations in several vehicle domains – including tire mileage

And last but not least, the continuous expansion of the functional possibilities of various Continental products in all vehicle domains is also evident in the area of tire information systems. In the future, simple information about tire inflation pressure will trigger a warning not only if the vehicle is overloaded. The very latest functional development is that ultra-precise tire sensor data can also be used to provide tire-specific mileage information. In the future, the tire sensor will be able to determine the tire’s tread depth. This enables the driver to be notified in sufficient time that a tire needs to be changed.