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Driving is going digital

5th March 2019

The digital revolution in driving is underway, and it is changing car technology forever

Technology and change go hand in hand, especially in the twenty-first century. Something new seems to be announced every day, or at least it feels this way. Take driving. If you ask any of our many customers in the south-east of England what the most significant change is in the automotive industry today, most will suggest hybrid cars, or the ever increasing switch to fully electric vehicles.

These are valid points, and there’s no doubt that these topics certainly dominate mainstream motoring news. But this is only scratching the surface of automotive development. In an era of unprecedented dependency on electronic and connected technology, the digital age is driving the direction of motoring too.

Although many of us (though not all) are used to the increasing digitalisation in our daily lives, few people truly understand what this means in practice for UK drivers. Some of the technologies that are being developed will have a major impact on all of our day to day experiences on the road, including many innovations created by Continental.

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More and more, we’re car-shopping in digital

Before we examine some of the digital automotive technologies that are currently found in many our vehicles, consider how we now buy vehicles. Shopping for cars has dramatically changed over the last decade, all because of the digital revolution. Today, there’s a seemingly endless supply of statistics, data and reviews available online – for every single vehicle on the market! This means drivers are much better informed before making a purchasing decision. So popular is this method of buying that it’s estimated that by 2020 around two-thirds of us will make decisions on car buying as a result of online research.

And it doesn’t stop there. Many motor manufacturers are in the process of launching virtual car showrooms, enabling drivers – like you – to utilise Augmented Reality (AR) to look around their cars – an experience so near real-world that it will feel as if you’re standing next to them – all from the comfort of your own home! Could this disruptive technology spell the end of the real-life showroom?. Perhaps. Will we instead order our next vehicle purchase online, and have it delivered straight to our home directly from the factory, or distribution hub? It’s very possible.

Continental’s smarter tyres keep you safe

On the road, some digital innovation aims to make the driving experience safer, with tyres also getting the smart-technology treatment. Leading premium tyre manufacturer, Continental, has already developed its own sophisticated Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) which comes as standard in many of the vehicles that Merityre customers drive.

They’ve also developed an electronic-Tyre Information System (eTIS) that’s designed to keep an eye on your tyres, alerting you to (potentially dangerous) temperature changes or pressure loss. But eTIS is about more than just safety. It also improves driver comfort, reduces CO2 emissions, and helps with minimising fuel consumption. Digital tyre tech is here, but there’s so much more on the horizon, including ContiSense and ContiAdapt smart tyre technologies.

While not available to buy just yet, these revolutionary vehicle aids are based on electrically conductive rubber compounds that allow electrical signals to be sent from a sensor in the tyre to a receiver in the car. As a result, your tyres will continually talk to your car, which in turn will notify you of any issues relating to tread depth, temperature, and pressures – making your driving experience both safer and more comfortable.

But how will you process this digital data?

Continental’s technology – more than just tyres

Continental’s reputation as an award winning premium tyre manufacturer is unrivalled, but less well known is that much of its recent research, development and investment has been focused on developing digital technologies. One such technology is HUD - Heads-Up Displays. In 2018, Continental increased its stake in DigiLens, a Silicon Valley-based leader in holographic waveguide technology. They provide a ‘smart head-up display’ for cars (and motorbike helmets) that significantly increasing the visible HUD viewing area. Given the speed of development in this field, HUD – previously only seen in airplane cockpits – may become commonplace.

HUD is just the latest example of Continental digital displays intergrated into the cars of many automotive manufacturers. Many Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi cars, for example, incoporate Continental electronic dashboard and sat-nav displays. Simply put, Continental provide the global automotive industry with an unrivalled array of digital performance and safety technologies that are second to none.

Smart sensors make sense of your surroundings

One such performance and safety technology for the digital age is Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These intelligent electronics provide a wide range of benefits to drivers, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) – which monitors road conditions and helps to prevent collisions – and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – which can assist with steering if you need to take avoiding action.

And then there’s autonomous self-parking technology, the digital driving technology that gets all the attention. As the name suggests, autonomous self-parking means you never need park the car yourself again. Continental are a provider of this technology to the global automotive industry, and if you happen to be lucky enough to drive a latest model Mercedes-Benz, you’ll probably already be familiar with this clever autonomous tech.

As it becomes more and more commonplace – just as ADAS technologies AEB and ESC have – autonomous driver assistance will become the norm, to the point where drivers will question its omission if a vehicle does not have it. Make no mistake, the autonomous vehicle revolution is well and truly here, and Continental are superbly placed to help shape and steer the direction of this digital technology.

In future, we may not drive at all

Continental has joined forces with the BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye with the goal of producing fully automated BMW vehicles by 2021. It has also partnered with BMW, Audi and Daimler by purchasing a stake in Here, a digital mapping company. Although that may conjure up images of satellite navigation systems, Here’s technology has more relevance to autonomous vehicles.

In 2018, Continental announced a partnership with Vodafone to develop new technologies together, focusing partly on the creation of traffic jam warning systems, as well as a ‘digital shield’ for pedestrians – all using soon to be rolled out 5G wireless technology. Any future autonomous driving environment will require a dependable wireless network for sharing cellular information between vehicles and pedestrians’ phones, so as to warn of oncoming traffic as someone crosses the road.

And then there’s infrastructure, vital for the safe and reliable implimentation of a fully autonomous driving network. Showcased at CES Las Vegas earlier this year, smart road junctions and smart street lamps are just the beginning of the driving infrastructure revolution. Ultimately, following next generation advancements in wireless communications and data processing, fully autonomous transportation will become a reality.

Innovations such as Continental’s ‘CUbE’, an on-demand autonomous shuttle to transport people via the most efficient route to their destination in a city, will change the way we consume transport – so much so that vehicle ownership as we know it may become a thing of the past. Concepts like CUbE could also revolutionise the way the products we increasingly purchase online are transported and delivered, being used to get parcels to offices and homes alike.

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