Driver assistance systems use a combination of warnings and some degree of active intervention to help steer the driver away from trouble.  In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with Wilfried Mehr about the ways in which Continental has been pushing back the technical boundaries in the driver assistance arena.

Wilfried Mehr is Head of Business Development, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Passive Safety & ADAS / Chassis & Safety, Continental AG.

just-auto: What trends are you seeing in OEMs’ strategies with regard to ADAS functions?

Wilfried Mehr: All OEMs over the globe, even in China and India, think about ADAS today. They clearly regard the potential to increase car safety. ADAS is transferring from a marketing argument to a ‘must have’. 

What are the most cost-effective driver assistance systems to implement?

It depends on how you define cost-effective. For example, some shiny features like traffic sign recognition can be implemented into a multi-functional camera very easily without any further penalty to the packaging in a car. For active safety features, such as the forward looking emergency brake assist, we see certain advantages for stand-alone low cost systems like our infrared based short range sensor. This system was our first ADAS product and is currently standard equipment in certain Volvo car lines.

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By GlobalData

Radar-based safety technologies such as advance collision warning and blind-spot detection are becoming common place as optional equipment on new vehicles. While the possibilities to “assist the driver” seem endless, is there a risk of information overload?

We don’t see a problem with information overload. At Continental we believe in intuitive interfaces to the driver. Our safety system ContiGuard works in the background as long as there is no imminent risk of collision. In the emergency phase, we support the driver by braking or steering, e.g. with our lane departure warning system. Based on our experience with ESC, such driver assistance technologies are welcome by the driver.

I guess that there is a fine line between helping the driver steer clear from trouble and doing too much?

Of course the final tuning of the systems is one of the important and time-consuming efforts during the end of a development. The tuning is basically done under the lead of our customer, who gives the specification.

Now that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made collision warning and lane departure alert part of the New Car Assessment Programme requirements for a five-star safety rating, I guess that the market for such technology in North America will grow?

Absolutely. We recognise similar market mechanisms we’ve got to know with airbag and ESC. Car assessments play a major role to make the consumer aware of the safety potential of driver assistance systems. 

To what extent does driver acceptance of radar safety systems vary from one geographical market to the next?

Basically there is no variation. Everybody expects the highest possible safety potential given by the radar system. In addition, carmakers introduce global car platforms, which must meet the specifications of all main markets.

For some time, advanced driver assistance systems were the sole preserve of the luxury vehicle class yet nowadays features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems are being offered on the Ford Focus. How do you see the roll out of such ADAS technologies across all vehicles in Europe?

Yes, the launch of the Ford Focus is a milestone in the market. We expect others to follow because there is no reason to consider driver assistance as a luxury status symbol. We need the best possible safety in all cars.

To what extent has the trend toward global platforms enabled new technologies to be introduced in low-tech markets?

We can expect higher volumes which drive the cost down and foster the innovation. 

As we understand it, traffic sign recognition is a relatively new function for camera platforms. While this functionality starts with speed monitoring, could it be developed to embrace other derivatives? 

Yes, of course. Speed limit monitoring was just the first step. We will see many of other functionalities in near future.

With the improvement of ADAS, I guess map data and positioning information of navigation systems require more accurate and extensive location information? e.g. detailed road shape  such as curvature, gradient, number of lanes, crossing, lamp, and so on.

This is a very specific topic. ADAS sensors are increasing their performance and going to be able to resolve a 3D picture of the environment in the upcoming years. As long as the digital map puts an additional burden to the system cost, we can hardly see any volume scenario soon.

Could you give us an idea of the type of technical advances you are making in the area of navigation-based ADAS? i.e. maybe in terms of the fusion technology of radar and vision sensors which complements the accuracy of ADAS.

These functions are in our pre-development phase to evaluate the potential benefits.