Next-Gen Car Tech Can Tell if, Uh, You Don’t Have a Head Anymore

You likely know much of your favorite vehicle isn’t built by the folks with a badge on the hood. Infotainment, driver assists, interior materials (like cleverly named vegan leathers), brake systems, chassis components, and tires are quietly built by automotive suppliers, not OEMs. Sure, they don’t have as much name recognition as the automakers they support, but suppliers like Bosch, Continental, Denso, and ZF are crucial influencers to the future of automotive tech. That’s why we leapt at the chance when Continental invited us to this year’s TechShow in Frankfurt, Germany. If what was shown off is any indication, the near future of the automobile is clever, cute, and even a little creepy.

View Gallery

7 Photos

Autonomous Valet Parking, Even in Your Non-Tesla Dumb Car

Yeah, yeah, the Tesla folks announced Smart Summon in 2019, didn’t they? Sure, but that relies on those vehicles’ countless cameras and sensors, and their resultant high price point, plus it can only return the vehicle from its parking spot. Conti and partner Kopernikus Automotive have a more advanced solution that could work for almost any new vehicle sold today.

Instead of requiring expensive sensors and onboard computers, Continental has developed an infrastructure-based solution that could be installed in parking garages to enable autonomous valet parking using a vehicle’s existing hardware. Even relatively basic new cars have capability to electronically control braking, steering, and throttle thanks to today’s driver assists.

By installing servers, cameras, and an array of QR codes throughout the location, the system enables Level Four autonomy even in vehicles not designed for it. We witnessed Conti’s autonomous valet tech park itself, avoid stationary vehicles in its path, and descend a seven-story corkscrew ramp.

Bosch debuted a similar system in 2020 for Fords, but Continental imagines it working in concert with robotic arm charging stations and automated car washes to add more value to those who would be paying to install such a system. The tech also has huge potential to eliminate human porters at production plants and dealerships. Would you pay a premium to store your vehicle in an autonomous garage that could return it to you clean and fully charged?

Curved 48-Inch 8K Infotainment

Of course, the Conti folks also showed off their vision of in-car future tech. Plenty of automakers try to simulate a cabin-spanning digital interface—see Mercedes-Benz HyperScreen or the Cadillac Escalade’s supposed 38-inch screen—but it’s always easy to see the seams.

At this year’s TechShow, Continental displayed its colossal door-to-door 48-inch touchscreen that takes the place of a digital instrument cluster, infotainment system, and passenger display. An 8K resolution was necessitated to maintain fidelity across the screen’s ultrawide aspect ratio, and although it’s not an OLED panel like those in the Cadillac, local LED dimming across 8,000 individual diodes ensures high contrast and sharp visuals.

The setup is striking in person, and Continental paired it with a secondary touch panel hidden behind a transparent woodlike material. We generally prefer physical controls, but this system’s crisp haptic feedback soothes some of our concerns.

Modular Next-Gen HUDs

Not all drivers or OEMs want enormous screens dominating their cabins. The aforementioned Hyperscreen can be a little much for our tastes, and frankly, so could Conti’s single unbroken display.

For folks who want something a little more subtle, Continental has a solution. The TechShow featured a rethink of head-up displays as we know them with a modular array of dash-mounted screens projected onto a black section on the lower border of the windshield. It’s similar to but larger than the panoramic HUD BMW showed with the Neue Klasse, which we suspect may have come from BMW supplier Continental.

There’s the aesthetic advantage, of course, but the Conti system dubbed the ScenicView HUD also has a modular approach. The implementation we saw consisted of three individual head-up displays disguised by dark graphics on a dark background that hid the seams more successfully than most current infotainment solutions. That said, we could also see single- and dual-screen applications on lower trim levels, and the Continental rep joked you could potentially fit five in an F-350.

Dual-Factor Facial Recognition

Apple’s Face ID seriously creeped us out when it debuted on the iPhone X in 2017, but it’s since become an indispensable part of the security experience of iOS. We’ve gotten a peak at what that could look like in an automotive application with the Genesis GV60’s Face Connect unlock feature, but the new Continental tech takes things a step further.

Requiring minimal hardware beyond the driver attention monitoring tech that will become mandatory on new vehicles in Europe in 2026, Conti’s new system goes beyond what’s offered in the Genny. The Continental rep demonstrated with a one-to-one lifelike recreation of his own head.

Not only does this new system recognize your face, it also checks for “liveliness,” including using an infrared sensor to check for blood behind your skin. It refused to authenticate the realistic mannequin. Though he insisted they haven’t tested it (yet?) the rep said the tech would not approve a severed head or skin mask. Nice! Sorry Hannibal Lecter.

He claimed this offers a significant advantage over a fingerprint ID as, according to him, gangs in South America will cut off your finger to steal your car. Not so nice!

In addition to approving the driver starting the vehicle, the new facial recognition tech could also simplify and approve payment for fueling or parking. The sensor and software suite can detect driver drowsiness, too, by monitoring blink rate over a period of time rather than relying on the frequency of steering corrections like some contemporary systems.

Quiet, Grippy, Efficient Tires, Now Made From Trash*!

Continental CEO Nikolai Setzer introduced the company’s first production tire made from majority sustainable materials, the UltraContact NXT. The new rolling stock utilizes bio-based resins from paper and wood industry waste as well as silicate sourced from rice husk ash. A combination of recycled, sustainable synthetic, and natural rubber to maintain pliability, and recycled steel for the cords.

A semi-sustainable tire is all well and good, but it’ll only be successful if it performs well. The UltraContact NXT earned the highest possible ratings in braking performance, rolling resistance, and exterior noise levels, which we were able to briefly experience during a drive in the Cupra Born, a forbidden fruit cousin of the also not-for-America Volkswagen ID3. Continental’s Frankfurt test track is rather small, but over a few laps we noted strong lateral and longitudinal grip in cornering and braking scenarios, plus a relatively quiet ride. On such a level surface, though, we were unable to evaluate ride comfort or tire noise over rough pavement.

The UltraContact NXT will be available come the end of July, though for now, it’s only offered in Europe. We’re sure this tire tech will eventually make it stateside given Conti’s promise of 40-percent sustainable materials across its tire lineup by 2030. That means we’ll eventually see the same ideas applied to Continental’s high-performance and off-road tires; a version of the same ethos already at work off-road racing in Extreme E.

Engineers Swear They Didn’t Mean to Make Their Forklift Bot This Cute

Following the TechShow in Frankfurt, we had a chance to visit Continental’s brake caliper manufacturing facility in Rheinböllen. Seeing the automated assembly was cool and all, but the Conti folks were especially excited about what they call their AMR.

Short for Autonomous Mobile Robot, the AMR marks a partial shift for Continental from supplier to OEM. The Conti-yellow bot is only a few inches tall and slowly glides itself across the factory floor. The ARM is intended to replace human-operated forklifts, tucking under a load and raising its platform to lift more than 2,600 pounds.

Four radar systems and a pair of cameras give the AMR 360-degree visibility to avoid workers and potential hazards. In these early days, the AMRs are still assembled by hand, taking a single worker 50 hours to build.

Our tour guide insists the AMR was developed by engineers, not designers, but for technical folks they made it awful cute with a pair of eye-like lights up front , a pointed nose that hooks up to the machine’s charging dock, and red bumpers below the lights that give the appearance of rosy cheeks.

Continental’s Best Future Tech of 2023 and Beyond

  • Ultra Cute AMR Forklift Bot
  • Quiet, Grippy Tires, Now Made From Trash*!
  • Advanced Beheading-proof Facial Recognition
  • Modular Next-Generation Head-Up Displays
  • Curved 48-inch 8K Infotainment
  • Autonomous Valet Parking, Even For Your Non-Tesla Dumb Car

Source: Read Full Article