Continental Tests Level 3 AVs on Germany’s Autobahn

As legacy automakers and tech startups alike clamor to ramp up their testing of autonomous vehicles, German automotive manufacturing company Continental announced this week an expansion of its global test drive program for highly and fully automated driving.

The company, which specializes in tires, brake systems, interior electronics, automotive safety and powertrain and chassis components — among other parts — for the automotive and transportation industries, announced that its engineers are now testing their test vehicles on autobahns in Lower Saxony in Germany.

The planned routes include sections of the country’s famed autobahn — where speed limits don’t exist — but also highways and routes through the city for additional testing.

While developers are testing the systems of the vehicles under real traffic conditions on Germany’s autobahns, Lower Saxony will be used as a field for the test drives of its Cruising Chauffeur test sedan.

The Cruising Chauffeur vehicles have the ability to take over the driving task on highways in accordance with the national traffic regulations, categorized as a Level 3 autonomous vehicle.

This handover from human to computer is initiated by a specially developed human machine interface that is also being tested in the vehicles on German highways.

“On highways, our systems have to cope with traffic that crosses the vehicle’s path, the vastly differing edges, and, just like in the city, with pedestrians and cyclists,” Continental’s head of systems and technology in the chassis and safety division, Ralph Lauxmann, wrote in a statement. “This places high demands on our systems.”

If the driver fails to respond when prompted to take over, the vehicle is able to stop safely automatically, a decision arrived at through a process known as the minimum risk maneuver, in which the vehicle identifies where there is space to stop safely and automatically heads for this place.

Continental noted this function would be part of the Cruising Chauffeur when it is ready for production in 2020. The company previously started testing similar systems on public roads in Nevada during 2012, and currently boasts a fleet of development vehicles in Germany, the US, Japan and China.

The company’s goal is seamless, automated mobility without accidents, whether through privately owned vehicles, public transport, or ride-hailing and ride-sharing ventures.

With its test platform Continental Urban Mobility Experience, the company tests systems for driverless robo-taxis in the city, as well as for automated and autonomous parking.

In addition to the production readiness of highly automated driving, Continental is also working on fully automated driving on the autobahn by 2025, designed to allow car drivers to temporarily focus their minds on activities other than driving.

Earlier this year the company unveiled a digital tire monitoring system jointly developed by Continental Tires and Continental Engineering Services (CES).

With the help of a tire sensor, mounted on the inner liner of a tire, the solution helps fleets to maximize their efficiency and sends alerts if tire pressure deviates from the defined value.

By providing this information the fleet could benefit from a reduced number of breakdowns and lower maintenance costs, with fleet managers allowed to act proactively not only for single vehicles but for entire fleets.

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