Continental is working on an automatic system to warn of the risk of aquaplaning.

This loss of grip on extremely wet roads dramatically reduces the ability to control vehicles and presents a major accident risk. In future, the aquaplaning warning system based on camera data and tyre sensor data will detect impending aquaplaning situations early on. This means that drivers will be warned in time and can better adjust their speed in advance. An initial production of the technology, which is currently in predevelopment, is conceivable in a next generation of vehicles, the supplier said. Hardware and software is being developed in Frankfurt, Hanover and Toulouse.

"Even with the best tyres, sudden aquaplaning is always a frightening moment and can mean the danger of an accident. We are developing a high-performance technology based on sensor information and software that detects a potential risk of aquaplaning and warns the driver in time," said Frank Jourdan who heads the chassis and safety division.

Comes the sales pitch: "As aquaplaning depends on the tread depth of the tyres, the depth of the water on the road and the driving speed, Continental recommends renewing summer tyres with a remaining tread of 3mm. If the tread depth is any less, there is a much higher risk of aquaplaning. Experts generally advise drivers to reduce their speed on wet roads and in rain."

Cameras key to early warning

Aquaplaning occurs when the tread cannot quickly enough deflect the water from the road. To detect this excessive water displacement, Continental relies on images from the surround-view cameras. These wide-angle cameras are installed in the side mirrors, grille and on the rear. "When there is a lot of water on the road, the camera images show a specific splash and spray pattern from the tyres that can be detected as aquaplaning in its early phase," said project manager Bernd Hartmann.

The supplier also plans to use information from the tyres to identify the risk of aquaplaning. Here, the sensor signals will be analysed directly in the tyres.

"We use the accelerometer signal from the electronic tyre information system to look for a specific signal pattern," said Andreas Wolf, head of the body and security business unit. As the eTIS sensor can also identify the tyre's remaining tread, this data can be used to determine a safe speed for specific wet road conditions and pass this on to the driver.

In future, it will be possible to evaluate all sensor data in a central vehicle computer for the aquaplaning warning system. If the system detects a danger at the current speed, the driver will be notified of a safe speed. With connectivity, vehicles that are still far behind a potential aquaplaning spot can be informed of the danger immediately via vehicle to vehicle communication and the digital map based on the electronic horizon. This is how the traffic control systems also receive information about relevant danger areas.

The aquaplaning warning system is especially important for automated vehicles. They must avoid aquaplaning situations without human driving experience.