Turning Your Car into Your Safety Companion: Continental Automotive Unveils Concept Vehicle to Investigate and Address Driver Distraction

Next-generation in-cabin and surrounding safety technologies join forces to combat distraction by increasing driver focus and awareness

Feb 07, 2013, 15:40 ET from Continental

CHICAGO, Feb. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Distracted driving is an epidemic.  According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), each day 10 people are killed and more than 1,100 people are injured in crashes that involved distracted drivers. To address this ongoing concern, Continental, a leading global automotive supplier, has developed its own concept vehicle to test ways to combat driver distraction – the Driver Focus vehicle. 

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"At Continental, we continue to invest in research and development for next generation technologies that will drive us toward a safer future," announced Jeff Klei, president Continental, NAFTA at the Chicago Auto Show. "This Driver Focus vehicle highlights how the continual integration of new technology, focused on the right issues, can help to further reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities. As a company, Continental's strategy is clearly focused on making this type of future technology a reality so that distracted driving, and vehicular accidents as a whole, become a thing of the past."

In its Driver Focus concept vehicle, Continental has integrated current Advanced Driver Assistance active safety technology with a future interior monitoring system and visual Human-Machine Interface (HMI) technology that provides the driver with a virtual safety-focused companion -- or co-pilot -- that constantly scans the vehicle's external and internal environments.  Coupling these technologies works to make sure the driver's actions and attentiveness match the real time needs of the driving situation.

"The integration of surrounding and in-cabin safety technologies gives us the ability to create a very real relationship between the driver, the vehicle and the environment," said Mr. Helmut Matschi, executive board member and president of Continental's Interior Division. "With the Driver Focus vehicle technology we are for the first time able to communicate to the driver based on both the driving situation and in relation to his ability to react at this point in time. It represents the ultimate in HMI, delivering the integration of technology, information and safety systems in a way that supports and assists the driver toward a safer and more enjoyable experience."

Continental's Driver Focus vehicle features a combination of both production ready and prototype technology. The key to the success of the technology is the systems integration that provides the driver with seamless and critical information and also actively assists when the driver does not respond to a driving situation due to distraction.

"Human error is the single cause for about 80 percent of traffic accidents. Among these, driver distraction is a serious issue and plays a major role. The reasons are complex and range from driver drowsiness and monotonous driving situations to increased stress and driver information overload," said Dr. Ralf Cramer, executive board member and president of Chassis & Safety division, Continental. "To combat these realities, Continental utilizes active safety technology to advise drivers of the dangers and assist if necessary."

System Overview of Continental's Driver Focus Vehicle

Interior Safety Technology includes:

  • Infrared driver analyzer camera: positioned in the vehicle's steering column, the camera recognizes a driver's facial behavior -- such as eye and head movements -- that can indicate that the driver is drowsy or has his head turned away from the road in a critical situation.
  • Halo: an industry-first 360 degree in-cabin optical guidance feature that is integrated with both the interior infrared camera to assist with driver distraction and with ADAS technologies to alert the driver of critical situations. For example, if the driver analyzer camera detects that a driver is looking away from the road while approaching a potential traffic hazard– the Halo will be activated, creating a subtle light trail that brings the driver's eyes back to the correct field of view. Together with the University of Darmstadt (Germany), Continental developed a scientifically proven HMI concept to keep the driver awareness level to an optimum value. This project is part of the German research program, Proreta 3, which is focused on an integrated concept for driving safety and advanced driver assistance in order to avoid accidents and mitigate the consequences of accidents in city traffic.

Surrounding Safety Technologies:

  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW): LDW is a camera-based system designed to detect when a driver is veering out of their lane. In the Driver Focus vehicle the LDW will alert only in the case that the driver is not being attentive to the traffic situation. Eliminating unnecessary alerts has the potential to minimize additional driver distractions while maintaining one's overall trust in the LDW alerts.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Takeover:  ACC is a forward-looking radar-based driver assistance system activated to keep a desired time gap between vehicles. In the current market there are limitations to the braking levels of such automated assistance systems. In the event that the traffic scenario requires more deceleration than the ACC system may provide, an ACC Takeover alert is initiated. In many cases, this includes a visual alert (flashing light or icon) usually in the front of the interior. If the driver is looking to the rear, left or right, this alert location is not ideal. The Driver Focus vehicle tries to combat missed alerts by illuminating all 360 degrees of the Halo for an ACC Takeover.
  • Forward Collision Warning:  Forward collision warning is a forward-looking sensor-based safety technology. If a driver ignores the necessity to brake, he is warned of the imminent danger. On Continental's Driver Focus vehicle, the driver's gaze is analyzed before issuing a warning. In this manner the warning can be specialized. For example, if the driver is attentive to the roadway the warning can be suppressed until the criticality is at a maximum and vice versa, if the driver is not attentive the warning can be initiated, subtly, when the criticality is still low and positioned in precise locations bringing the driver's attention to the critical areas of interest. 

This vehicle also showcases Continental's latest fixed calipers.  This new design uses light weight aluminum monoblock housing, and is optimized for low drag, pedal feel, NVH and braking performance.

The Driver Focus vehicle's technology complements and advances Continental's industry leading efforts toward developing technology that enables highly automated driving in the future and delivers a more safe and enjoyable driving experience to the public.

With sales of €30.5 billion in 2011, Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also an expert partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently has approximately 170,000 employees in 46 countries.

SOURCE Continental