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2020 Annual Report

150 Years of Continental

2020 Annual Report


Research and Development

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Future technologies are characterized by their high degree of connectivity, safety and convenience.

The future of mobility and other industries will be determined primarily by software innovations – for more safety, convenience and an intuitive user experience. Software will make a significant contribution to a future without traffic accidents. More than 90% of innovations in cars already come from software development. In industrial plants, software can be used to reduce unplanned downtimes and establish predictive maintenance intervals.

High-performance computer and Cooperation Portal recognized with awards
Increasing functionality and connectivity are pushing conventional distributed vehicle architectures with 100 or more electronic control units to their limits. Within a new and more centralized architecture design, Continental’s Body High-Performance Computer (Body HPC) replaces specific electronic control units and acts as a central “electronic brain” to manage data within the vehicle and beyond. It also acts as an application server that allows for cyber security features or wireless updates, for example. The vehicle remains state of the art, and the user can install new functions just like on a smartphone. The Body HPC is already used in the Volkswagen ID.3 model, and will be used in further models in Volkswagen’s ID. series in the future as well.

While Continental’s HPC simplifies the electronic architecture of a vehicle, implementing it is actually a highly complex task. An HPC like the one in the VW ID.3 is software-intensive and requires flexible development beyond what one company can offer: 19 different companies thus contributed toward the development of the software for this alone.

To effectively and efficiently shape such complex collaboration, Continental developed the Cooperation Portal, which automates processes, ensures higher software quality and saves time with regard to development. The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) has given special recognition to this and presented Continental with the 2020 CLEPA Innovation Award.

Digital tire monitoring in real time
Continental has developed ContiConnect Live, the next generation of the digital tire-monitoring solution. It complements the Conti-PressureCheck systems for monitoring tire pressure and temperature, as well as ContiConnect Yard, the reader station that records all the necessary data when the vehicle passes by the station on the company premises. With ContiConnect Live, the data on tire pressure and temperature is sent to the cloud in real time using a central telematics unit. In addition, the unit transmits the location of the vehicle via GPS and records the operating hours of the tires. The data from the cloud can be accessed via a web portal, which provides a detailed vehicle view including alarm, pressure and temperature history, as well as GPS data and operating hours. If the data is not ideal, fleet managers are informed by text message or email, minimizing punctures and increasing the safety of drivers and vehicles.

Fleet managers therefore have a faster and more convenient overview of the condition of their vehicles regardless of location. By evaluating the information, the fleet benefits from reduced downtimes, extended operating hours and lower maintenance costs. ContiConnect Live is available for all specialty tires from Continental equipped with sensor technology.

Research and development expenses (net)
  2020 2019
  € millions % of sales € millions % of sales
Autonomous Mobility and Safety 1,008.9 13.4 1,048.7 11.2
Vehicle Networking and Information 1,284.7 16.4 1,189.2 12.4
Tires 268.0 2.6 299.4 2.6
ContiTech 149.7 2.7 162.8 2.5
Powertrain 670.5 9.6 664.1 8.5
Continental Group 3,381.8 9.0 3,364.2 7.6
Capitalization of research and development expenses 173.0 232.4
in % of research and development expenses 4.9 6.5
Depreciation on research and development expenses 197.1 120.4
Download table overview (MS-Excel)

LiDAR technology portfolio expanded
Continental has supplemented its LiDAR portfolio by acquiring a minority stake in AEye, Inc., a US company specializing in LiDAR. Along with cameras and radars, LiDAR sensors count among the key technologies for automated driving. Continental has more than 20 years of experience in LiDAR sensors. AEye has developed a long-range LiDAR technology combining an amplifiable 1550 nanometer laser with a patented, feedback-controlled microelectromechanical system (MEMS) as a scanner.

This technology can be configured using software and thus optimized for almost any vehicle model and application. The LiDAR sensor from AEye is perfectly suited for use in passenger cars and commercial vehicles thanks to its high dynamic spatial resolution and long range. Vehicles are detected at a distance of over 300 meters and pedestrians at over 200 meters. Even small, low-reflecting objects like bricks can be detected at a distance of 160 meters. Continental will industrialize this LiDAR technology to meet the needs of the automotive industry, with production scheduled to begin at the end of 2024.

Sensor-based inspection service for conveyor belt systems
Continental has developed a service solution for monitoring conveyor belt systems to enable the early identification of weak points along a conveyor belt section before damage occurs and unplanned and costly downtimes result. The solution, offering a combination of visual and acoustic inspection, enables efficient, datasupported planning of maintenance intervals by applying sensor-supported technologies to replace the conventional and usually very complex manual process. These technologies make the inspection more precise, reduce the amount of verification required and enable predictive maintenance.

The new service offering comprises a hybrid solution that takes into account different applications and sections. First, open sections are inspected from the air using a camera-equipped drone that monitors the conveyor belt system. Once the drone has left the inspected section, it returns to an autonomous charging station to transfer the collected data to the designated cloud via an IoT (Internet of Things) module. The image data is then processed and analyzed using an artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithm. Second, regular maintenance is carried out in covered sections or underground conveyors using fixed microphones, which record frequency deviations in the system’s numerous idlers. The acoustic data is also uploaded to the cloud, where it is processed and analyzed using AI.

The service solution has been successfully tested in initial field trials, and the system is scheduled to be put into operation in the course of 2021.

First transmission control system with overmolding electronics
Thanks to a new, globally unique manufacturing process, Vitesco Technologies has developed a transmission control unit known as overmolding control electronics. In the conventional design of an electronic control unit, the electronics are located within a housing. By contrast, the electronic components of an overmolding electronic control unit, which are arranged on a printed circuit board as usual, are completely embedded in plastic. New, high-precision injection molding processes as well as particularly resistant plastics make it possible to produce this type of electronic control unit for the very first time in the automotive industry.

The overmolding manufacturing process offers several advantages: As the sensitive high-tech components are completely enclosed in plastic, they are extremely robust and can withstand even strong vibrations. What’s more, an overmolding component is not only lighter than a comparable electronic control unit in a conventional housing, but also significantly thinner. The new transmission control unit is seven millimeters thick, making it currently the thinnest electronic control technology on the market. By way of comparison, the electronic control unit used up to now was 1.5 centimeters thick. Another advantage is that an overmolding component can be manufactured using considerably fewer production steps than a housed electronic control unit. The new technology therefore reduces complexity and is considerably more cost-effective.

R&D expenses (net) € millions / R&D ratio %

R&D expenses (net) € millions
R&D ratio %