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Research and Development

Our technology strategy is geared toward developing innovative and trend-setting products, systems, solutions, and services for our customers.

The central topic for Continental is the mobility of today and tomorrow, which we are creating and shaping with our ideas and solutions. For this reason, all activities in the area of research and development (R&D) have a high level of strategic importance. At the same time, we keep our social responsibility in mind, which is why we consider all future issues and research activities from the perspective of clean, safe, and intelligent technology (CSI).

When developing our products, systems, solutions, and services for our customers, we systematically implement a defined technology strategy based on the major trends in mobility: automated driving, electric mobility, digitalization, and increasing urbanization.

Our technology strategy forms the framework for all the divisions at Continental. In the year under review, the individual areas of R&D activities were combined further and dialog was increased once again. The technology strategy is how we implement Continental’s growth forces – while taking account of megatrends and the current market situation.

The management body responsible for adapting and evolving the technology strategy is the Executive Board. At the Executive Board technology review meetings – which are held regularly several times each fiscal year – the Executive Board follows, manages, and monitors Continental’s technology portfolio. Technologies, innovations, business opportunities, and projects in the context of the technology strategy are thus actively managed.

Below the Executive Board, the corporate technology officer (CTO) is responsible for coordinating research and development activities. The CTO’s tasks include ongoing planning and safeguarding of the long-term technology strategy, technology scouting, technology reviews, and constant expansion of the research network to further strengthen our technology leadership. This includes expanding the international research network not only internally but also externally, in order to benefit from continual sharing of knowledge. In 2016, for example, a research partnership in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) was set up between Continental and the University of Oxford. The purpose of the partnership is to research potential uses for artificial intelligence in future applications such as automated driving. In addition to the use and development of AI algorithms for future mobility applications, the research agenda also includes deep-learning algorithms (independent learning) for visual object detection and human-machine dialog. Furthermore, Continental held an international internal event for the R&D network as a shared platform for dialog during the reporting period. More than 156 employees from seven countries met here to share experiences and discuss the trends of tomorrow. One key topic was how R&D activities can better support value creation and growth.

Research and development expenses increase again
Expenditure for R&D for the corporation rose by 14.8% in the year under review to €2,811.5 million. This corresponds to an R&D ratio of 6.9%. In relation to automotive business, in which we generated sales of €24.5 billion in the year under review, the ratio is 9.9%. In comparison with this, the corporation’s capital expenditure ratio is 6.4%, and that of the Automotive Group is 6.1%.

Research and development expenses
  2016 2015
  € millions % of sales € millions % of sales
Chassis & Safety 773.4 8.6 691.2 8.2
Powertrain 701.5 9.6 708.7 10.0
Interior 956.0 11.5 697.3 8.6
Tires 260.9 2.4 244.9 2.4
ContiTech 119.7 2.2 107.5 2.0
Continental Corporation 2,811.5 6.9 2,449.6 6.2
         
Capitalization of research and development expenses 105.9   78.7  
in % of research and development expenses 3.6   3.1  
Depreciation on research and development expenses 54.3   51.6  

Download Data Tables (MS-Excel)

Moving toward automated driving: the High-Resolution 3D Flash Lidar
A large number of sensors enable vehicles to gather a wide range of data as they drive, including information about changing events such as traffic jams, accidents, traffic lights, warning signs, and the condition of the road surface. In the year under review, we expanded our sensor portfolio with our High-Resolution 3D Flash Lidar.

One key advantage of the High-Resolution 3D Flash Lidar sensor technology is that it allows for real-time 3D monitoring of a vehicle’s surroundings. The technology provides a considerably more extensive and detailed picture of the vehicle’s surroundings both by day and by night – even in adverse weather conditions. We are working on an integrated sensor solution to cover different driving situations and functionally optimize the display and segmentation of the vehicle’s surroundings. In order to implement the next stages of automated driving, we need various technologies for vehicle-surroundings sensors. We already have proven high-performance solutions in the areas of radars, cameras, and data fusion. The latter are necessary to avoid being dependent on just one signal. We have added the High-Resolution 3D Flash Lidar technology to our technology portfolio to further strengthen and advance our leading position in the development of automated driving.

R&D expenses / R&D ratio

R&D expenses / R&D ratio


Analysis and monitoring for truck and bus fleets: ContiConnect
The new ContiConnect tire information and management system for truck and bus fleets monitors, analyzes and reports the tire pressure and temperature of the entire fleet based on data from ContiPressureCheck sensors. If necessary, ContiConnect notifies the fleet manager and offers corrective action, for example by a Conti360° service partner. The associated online portal produces reports on the tire performance and overall efficiency of the fleet. Following its launch in the second quarter of 2017, ContiConnect will be available in key markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and North and South America.

With ContiConnect, we are expanding our many years of experience in tire technology with new findings from sensor data from our truck and bus tires. For our customers, this means a change from manual, routine tire care to automatically monitored tires and targeted care. This makes Continental the ideal partner in an increasingly digital logistics sector.

Highly efficient brake system: the MK C1
MK C1 is more effective and lighter than conventional brake systems, and enables shorter braking distances. The integrated system also reduces pedal vibrations, meaning that the driver always feels the same force-travel characteristics in the pedal – thus providing a high level of comfort.

MK C1 combines the brake actuation feature, the brake booster and the control systems (ABS and ESC) into a compact, weight-saving braking module. The system weighs three to four kilograms less than a conventional braking system, depending on the basis of comparison. The electro-hydraulic MK C1 can build up brake pressure much faster than conventional hydraulic systems and therefore meets the increased pressure dynamic requirements for advanced driver assistance systems for preventing accidents and protecting pedestrians. In addition, the system meets the requirements for a regenerative braking system without any additional measures, while providing a high level of comfort. The MK C1 thus makes a major contribution to safe and dynamic driving and to energy efficiency as well.

The brake system went into production for the first time worldwide in Alfa Romeo’s Giulia model.

Two in one: high-resolution dual display as central element of the vehicle interior
In addition to their home and their workplace, for more and more people the car is becoming another living space. And here they want to have high-quality equipment too.

To cater to this, Continental, for the first time, is equipping the 10th generation of the E-Class from Mercedes-Benz with two widescreen high-resolution displays that give the impression of being a single unit. As a central element of the vehicle interior, the dual display in the E-Class from Mercedes-Benz combines two screens in one module and enables the driver to access information intuitively. The display options are easier to understand than conventional solutions. For example, visual dial instruments can make room for large-scale added-value information. One display replaces the conventional instrument cluster and its analog instruments, while a second, central display is mounted above the center console. The displays provide realistic effects and high-quality graphics that perform cross-fading at high image-build-up speeds. The dual display lets the driver choose between three designs to customize how content is displayed on the screen. For example, the driver could hide the rev counter and replace it with other information such as navigation maps. At the same time, safety-related information is displayed in all operating conditions.

Better security and more personalization: biometrics in vehicles
Combining the keyless access control and start system PASE (passive start and entry) with biometric elements allows for better security and real personalization. To start the engine, for example, drivers will need more than just the right key inside the vehicle, depending on how the car manufacturer’s system is configured. Only once drivers have confirmed their identity using a fingerprint sensor will they be able to start their cars. This two-factor authentication process significantly increases the vehicle’s protection against theft. In addition, an interior camera enables enhanced vehicle personalization. A face recognition feature automatically personalizes a range of vehicle settings such as the seat and mirror position, music, temperature, and navigation. Biometrics can be integrated into any intelligent system, regardless of which access technology is used in the vehicle (Bluetooth low energy or low frequency).

In production cars for the first time worldwide: the 48-volt hybrid drive system
Hybrid Assist is the first 48-volt hybrid drive system from Continental to be used in production cars – in a diesel version of the new Renault models Scénic and Grand Scénic. This technology is a particularly cost-effective solution for significantly reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

In 2013, Continental engineers started working with Renault to develop a hybrid drive system that is so cost-effective to produce that it becomes an attractive option for mid-size vehicles. To achieve this, the partners decided to use low-voltage hybrid technology that operates at 48 volts – in contrast to the much more expensive high-voltage technology that operates at 300 to 400 volts generally used in hybrid vehicles. Nonetheless, significant savings are possible with the 48-volt system. With the mild hybrid system, Renault is therefore aiming for combined fuel consumption of 3.5 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers. The CO2 emissions of the new Scénic are thus expected to fall to 92 grams per kilometer, setting a new CO2 benchmark in this vehicle class. This is possible because the electric motor also operates as a generator, converting a large portion of the braking energy into electricity, which is temporarily stored in a small battery. This electricity can then be used to relieve the burden on the combustion engine. This is also the reason why nitrogen-oxide emissions and exhaust particulates decrease, especially in urban traffic, when a 48-volt drive system is combined with a diesel engine.

Other production launches for both diesel and gasoline vehicles are in the pipeline for Europe, China, and North America. Continental expects the market for 48-volt drive systems to grow significantly over the coming years. In 2025, approximately one in seven new vehicles across the world will be equipped with a 48-volt drive system.

For use in trucks: lightweight air springs
For use in trucks, we offer an air spring with an innovative lightweight plastic piston, which further reduces the weight of the vehicle and features an integrated buffer support for the first time. Full utilization of the inner volume improves the ride quality, meaning that the new lightweight air springs can replace elastic axle stops.

We are continuously reducing the weight of our air springs by replacing more and more steel or aluminum components with plastic ones. The pistons made using injection molding allow the entire inner volume of the piston to be utilized. The innovative design ensures good ride quality and simplifies installation in the vehicle. Standards for the quality, pay load, and efficiency of vehicles are constantly rising. As a result, light, weight-reducing components are now more important than ever. Compared with using steel components, lightweight air springs can reduce the weight of the vehicle by twelve kilograms per drive axle. The lightweight air springs are extremely corrosion-resistant and durable as well, which also increases the resale value of vehicles.