Future of Automobile: Emerging Automation

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been the most challenging situation we have faced so far as an industry. For manufacturing sectors, in particular, there have been challenges in terms of multiple lockdowns, impact due to some employees contracting COVID-19, disruption or shortage in the raw material supply, and re-imagining operations to ensure continuity despite all of these. Unlike other businesses and industries, manufacturing cannot be handled through ‘work from home’ models. So, the initial few months were challenging for the industry.

Companies had to adapt quickly, become more agile, implement new practices, and reskill as necessary to handle smart technologies. Many companies have accelerated their plans to bring in Industry 4.0 technologies. It is important to note that Industry 4.0 is not just about upgrading technical, automated advancements, and data protection. It is also about the stability and security of workers and industrial assets. This transformation to Industry 4.0 has become the new normal for the industry and will support manufacturing processes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Continental, our Industry 4.0 standard manufacturing facilities were already equipped with various smart factory features, which seamlessly supported the resumption of work. The pandemic has also spurred in-house innovation - a trend that will continue to grow even after the pandemic. For instance, employees working on the shop floor of our Bengaluru plant must change into ESD (electrostatic discharge) clothing before entering the work area. To remove the risks of overcrowding, Continental has implemented a sensor-based monitoring system at the entrance of the ‘change room’, which allows only a certain number of people into the room, and alerts if an employee overstays in the change room, thanks to the RFID tag embedded within the ID. Developed in-house, the Raspberry Pi-based application interfaces with an RFID scanner using MQTT for communication over a Wireless LAN network.

In the coming years, we will see more adoption of Industry 4.0 processes by manufacturing companies. For instance, Automated Guided Vehicles can help in material movement with minimum to no human intervention. Cobots can take up repetitive tasks so that employees can focus on strategic tasks instead. Such technologies will continue to grow in relevance even after the COVID-19 vaccination drives.

Speaking of R&D, the industry continued to invest in the area during the pandemic to optimize internally and develop innovative products. If I talk specifically about Continental, R&D has always been one of our primary focus areas. To strengthen R&D efforts, Continental established TCI (Technical Centre India) in 2009. The long-term megatrends in mobility will remain Connected, Electric, and Autonomous mobility and R&D investments made by the mobility companies will reflect the same in the future.

Autonomous driving, What can India Expect?
While fully autonomous vehicles would take some time to enter the Indian market, we are already witnessing a rise in demand for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems(ADAS) technologies.

ADAS technologies are critical enablers of autonomous vehicles of the future. ADAS systems, such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Emergency Brake Assist, already provide a high level of driving comfort and crash avoidance. Radar, camera, Ultrasonic sensors, and LiDAR technologies have a highly robust 360°degree view of the car, which is needed to realize advanced driving functions. Further, we are expecting government legislation regarding AEB and ESC in the coming years. This will create more demand pertaining to ADAS technologies in Indian consumers.

New Technology Contributions in the Indian Auto Market
The technological landscape in India is projected to change significantly in the coming years. Many Continental’s technological products have now started seeing more assured projections for the Indian market. This is due to the increased push by government bodies and industrial forums to align with the global regulatory framework. The improved emphasis on policy and infrastructure preparedness has also played an essential role in clearing some of the mist.

India is, undoubtedly, a huge market for the automotive industry. With our ‘in the market, for the market’ approach, and keeping in mind our commitment to make roads safer with our ‘Vision Zero - Zero Fatalities, Zero Injuries, Zero Crashes’ and our connectivity philosophy - ‘Connect. Inform. Integrate’. We have, over the years, introduced many safety and convenience features that would be suitable for the Indian market. For example, in 2020, we launched a fully digital instrument cluster in Hyundai Verna - a first in the premium car segment in India.

Going ahead, we can expect a rise in demand for ‘Keyless entry’ enabled by CoSmA, etc. AEB, ESC, driver monitoring, tire pressure monitoring, blind spot detection, among other technologies, could become prevalent in India.

We strongly believe that future cars will feature electric drives, which will be fully connected, and automated. In 2025, we expect a market share for pure electric drive systems of around 10 percent, and for hybrid drive systems of probably almost 30 percent. This means that the combustion engine is yet to reach its peak. We do not expect to see a slow decline in volumes until after 2025. But the primary concerns still are range and costs. Eventually, a consumer is looking for mobility solutions on par with a petrol or diesel vehicle – in terms of costs and mileage.

Technologies need to be upgraded, and more investments are required for the same. Apart from infrastructure and batteries, the EV transformation requires a rehaul of a vehicle’s entire ecosystem and architecture and the surrounding environment. Technologies like Intelligent Battery Sensors, brake systems, tires specially designed for EVs, etc., are very critical. Electrification also opens doors for innovative technologies like Continental’s Ac2ated Speakerless Audio Systems that abandons conventional speaker technology altogether, exciting select surfaces in the vehicle interior to produce sound. With Ac2ated Sound, carmakers can reduce the weight of a sound system by 75-90 percent. Speakerless Audio Systems will allow future electric vehicles to save space and weight, as these two are a high priority for zero-emission BEV models.

To make highways safer in India, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has tightened safety standards for vehicles like Seat Belts, anti-lock braking systems, etc. From April 1, 2019, all cars sold in the country come with ABS. 2-wheelers with engine capacity exceeding 125cc manufactured on & after April 1, 2018, come with ABS.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued a notification on 05 March 2021, making it mandatory for new models to have dual airbags installed in them for the safety of passengers. The new models of cars will have to adhere to this norm from April 1, 2021, onwards. The Centre has given time till August 31, 2021, for dual airbag installation in older models. In the coming years, we are expecting some norms regarding ADAS technologies.

To help spread more awareness about vehicle safety, Continental actively participates in forums like RASSI and NCAP. For instance, we partner with the Global NCAP ‘Stop the Crash’ information campaign, an initiative of Global NCAP, the London, UK-based umbrella body of the worldwide NCAP consumer organizations for new-car safety testing. Throughout the ‘Stop the Crash’ campaign, Global NCAP and its partners, including Continental, will be holding driving demonstrations to raise awareness of the benefits of safety technologies that are already being volume-produced and to encourage their adoption in subcompact and compact models too.

Apart from making these technologies readily available, automotive companies should also work on innovative solutions to make these technologies cost-effective. For instance, Continental’s Technical Center India worked on MiniMAB (One-Channel ABS) for smaller motorcycles and scooters. We developed this technology especially for value-conscious markets such as India based on proven ABS technology for passenger cars.

Functional safety is the need of the hour, and we as an industry need to move towards raising the safety standards across the world and in India. This has to be a multi-faceted approach, be it investing in R&D, being ‘In the Market, For the Market’, or voicing at organizations like Global NCAP.

Software Penetration in Automobile Sector
The dependency on software has increased exponentially over the past few years. Today, a passenger car can contain over 100 million lines of code, which is more than what was used to create operating systems earlier. The increasing complexity of the software used, and volumes of code put more pressure on software processes than ever before. Even a ‘standard’ car today is connected to cloud systems and requires regular updates.

Open architecture has become very critical, helping to standardize the future-proof software elements, manage complexities, ensure compliance and collaborate better. The Guidelines are essential to ensure that the software components are easy to maintain, reliable, robust, and most importantly, safe. Another vital aspect of this is cybersecurity. As the vehicles become connected, they are open to more cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity best practices and continuous monitoring, Over-the-air updates to fix bugs, and patch management have become very important in ensuring the safety of the vehicles.