Along with the big auto manufacturers, a group of automotive suppliers is working to bring autonomous vehicles to our roads. Continental, which also has concepts designed to improve in-car audio and security, will be running a concept autonomous car around its Frankfurt facility to try and fine-tune the way driverless cars navigate the complex city environment.
The vehicle that will be used in the Frankfurt trial is the Continental Urban mobility Experience demo vehicle, or CUbE for short. That name is certainly apt from the outside, where the desire for maximum interior space has dictated a featureless, boxy shape.
Various technologies in the car are more advanced versions of driver assistance systems and sensors already found in current production vehicles, which will be further advanced to provide fully autonomous capabilities. Continental says the vehicle also includes new technologies, such as a laser sensor.
Anticipating that autonomous vehicles are perfectly placed to become part of the sharing economy in the form of robo-taxis, Continental believes there will be an even greater emphasis on vehicle interiors. Comfort and coziness will be the order of the day, while scratch- and stain-resistant materials – all responsibly sourced, of course – will also be important.
Continental sees self-driving taxis as an obvious application for autonomous vehicles, particularly in cities such as Berlin, where the company says the average daily distance traveled by car is 20.2 km (12.5 mi) spread across three trips a day. As a result, when they aren't clogging up roads, cars are sitting idle for most of the day – be it parked on the road, in a garage or at a station carpark. Autonomous cars don't need to be stored during the day, they can simply drop one person off and continue going about their day, freeing up plenty of space.
"It's much more intelligent operating driverless vehicles as often as possible, than having countless private cars that are often at a standstill up to an average of 23 hours a day occupying valuable space – and that's space that could perhaps be used for parks and playgrounds," says Dr. Andree Hohm, Head of the Self-Driving Car project at Continental.
The CuBE will be trialed in typical city infrastructure at Continental's Frankfurt facility, and will be on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which kicks off September 14.