Continental breathes road maps live

November 03, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
With comprehensive real-time cloud-based data services, automotive supplier Continental plans to provide critical data to networked vehicles that ultimately will help to improve traffic flow, reduce fuel consumption and make road traffic safer. The service will leverage the data stream from the connected cars to generate a highly exact real-time road map with live traffic information.

The static version of the “electronic horizon” is already reality: With the digital topology map connected to the powertrain, the truck “knows” earlier than the driver when to take the foot off the gas pedal if there is a downslope or an intersection ahead. In large trucks, this feature reduces the fuel consumption by about 3 percent. While this seems to be insignificant, it helped according to Continental intelligence to reduce the fuel consumption of all trucks equipped with this feature by a total of 153 million litres of diesel fuel or an equivalent of €206 million.

Now the electronics supplier plans to roll out the second phase of the e-horizon: The dynamic e-horizon will make road traffic safer and more comfortable. And of course it will also help to further reduce the fuel consumption, says Ralf Lenninger, chief strategist in Continental’s Interior Division.

The dynamic e-horizon will work like this: Equipped with cameras, radar and sensors for grip, rain, temperature, speed and much more, today’s connected vehicles are generating several gigabyte of data every minute – data that can be processed, transformed and fed into hundreds or even thousands of applications. “Future vehicle fleets will be part of an ‘Internet of Cars’, continuously collecting highly precise, current and reliable data about road and traffic conditions, and these data will become usable for all traffic participants”. For instance, the real-time traffic data could be fed directly into driver assistance systems such as today’s radar-based adaptive cruise control and effectively enhance the range of the on-board sensors from some hundred today to an unlimited sensing range in the dynamic e-horizon. For example, future systems would “know” the ideal speed for a piece of road ahead, it could see obstacles, speed limit signs, road work sites or traffic congestions before the driver and the sensors would be aware of them, and it could reduce the speed accordingly.

With more or less all vehicles contributing to this “living map”, they will create a roadmap exact enough for future applications like automated driving. This map will be self-verifying, making costly surveying trips with specially equipped vehicles redundant, said Lenninger during a demonstration of the dynamic e-horizon. “Currently, there are about one billion vehicles driving around out on the streets. If some years down the road all these vehicles are connected, they will generate incredible amounts of data – it will be one of the largest data bases existing on the globe”, he said.

The e-horizon will consist of in-vehicle components, the data base, and application logics in the cloud. Within the cars, a software agent will pre-process and condense the data and transmit them to the OEM backend infrastructure and from there to Continental’s huge cloud data bas. The OEMs can tap these data to implement vendor specific algorithms that define the driving experience.