The Future of Automated Driving

From automated assistance to fully autonomous, the future of driving is connected

Hollywood has always loved the car, as seen in the many films that have graced Irish cinema screens over the years that have featured a vehicle which goes on to hold an iconic place in movie history. The past is resplendent with automotive magic, and to a lesser degree the future, too. However, compared to real world vehicles, Hollywood’s representation of the cars of tomorrow has almost entirely been a fantastical, non-realistic dream, with little or no basis in reality.

While it’s true that some futuristic representations have been deliberately far fetched – think the time travelling DeLorean in Back to the Future – and as such cannot be expected to become a reality (certainly not at the moment, anyway) other, more realistic automotive applications have failed to live up expectations. The flying cars in Bladerunner and Fifth Element, and underwater cars – like the wonderful Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me – have simply failed to materialise in any meaningful way. There have been – in fact, are – some examples of these technologies in existence, but alas, to date, none have been as accessible or practical as those presented by Hollywood.

There is, though, one futuristic Hollywood representation of automotive technology that is definitely on track to fulfil its promise, examples of which can be found in blockbuster movies including I, Robot, and Minority Report. The technology in question is automated driving, and the autonomous vehicles of tomorrow. Believe it or not, the tech represented in these films is so grounded in reality that much of it can already be found in many of today’s modern cars.

Tomorrow’s world is on the way

It’s true! For instance, if you drive a modern BMW, or Mercedes-Benz, you’re already experiencing the benefits of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies, like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – developed and manufactured by Continental. Surprised? If you believe that they only make tyres, think again.

While it’s true that Continental are best known by Irish motorists for their unrivalled range of award winning premium tyres, they’re known for a lot more by the global automotive industry. In fact their Tyre Division accounts for just a small part of their driving technologies, while their Chassis and Safety division is renowned for the many electronic automotive safety technology innovations that are now commonplace throughout the car manufacturing industry. Continental develop and produce integrated active and passive driving safety technologies, as well as products that support vehicle dynamics – all designed to keep drivers safer.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), is now established as an essential safety technology that’s designed to monitor traffic conditions in front of the car. When necessary, it will automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes if the driver fails to respond to an emergency situation, such as a potential collision. Statistics show that many of today’s road accidents are as a result of late braking / braking with insufficient force. There’s no doubt that AEB has helped prevent even more.


Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has been around since the 1990s, but the technology has significantly evolved from the original anti-lock brakes and traction control. Today, ESC sensors assist drivers with steering, intervening in the event of possible collision, or if a directional correction is urgently required. Continental’s Road Departure Detection safety system has been developed to monitor the vehicle’s steering angle and path, and if necessary assist the driver with any necessary corrections.

The comfort and convenience of ADAS

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) not only improves driver safety, it also provides superior driver comfort and convenience. Take the experience of participants at Continental’s popular Vision Zero Live events. They can testify firsthand to the incredible benefits of automated driving technologies. As well as experiencing the safety driven AEB system – hands free – and ESC system ‘Elk Test’, what left a long lasting impression was the (autonomous) automated self-parking technology.

Thanks to a sophisticated collection of on-board sensors and cameras that are strategically positioned throughout the exterior of the car, continuously updated positional data is gathered and for the creation of a 360° virtual map of the vehicle, establishing its immediate surroundings.

As a result, the system’s four cameras and twelve infrared LIDAR sensors are able to map and plot the necessary path for autonomously parking the vehicle. And in the event that a new variable should become a factor – such as the introduction of another vehicle, or if a person enters the immediate surroundings – then the system halts the parking process, until it’s all clear to safely resume. Safety is the system’s overriding number one priority.


Moving forward from automated assistance to fully autonomous driving

These examples of automated driving assistance represent some of the current Continental technologies Irish motorists can experience, but looking to the future – along the lines of I, Robot and Minority Report – the challenge is to develop a fully autonomous driving experience.

Easier said than done. As with all disruptive technology, there’s been a lot of confusion and uncertainty about automated / autonomous driving. As such, it’s worth clarifying the established definitions that represent the six levels of driving automation.

The six levels of automated driving

In 2014, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published their report which identified and defined six levels of driving automation, ranging from zero automation (Level 0) to complete, full-on automation (Level 5).

Level 0: Driver only.
The (human) driver is continuously in control of the speed and direction of the vehicle. There is no intervening vehicle system active.

Level 1: Assisted.
The driver continuously performs one or other of the longitudinal or lateral dynamic driving task. The other driving task is performed by the assisting system.

Level 2: Partial automation.
The driver must monitor the dynamic driving task and the driving environment at all times. The system performs longitudinal and lateral driving task in a defined use case.

Level 3: Conditional automation.
The driver does not need to monitor the dynamic driving task, nor the driving environment at all times – but must always be in a position to resume control. The system performs longitudinal and lateral driving task in a defined use case. The system recognises its performance limits, and if necessary will request the driver to resume the dynamic driving task – within a sufficient time margin.

Level 4: High automation.
Driver is not required during defined use case. System performs the lateral and longitudinal dynamic driving task in all situations in a defined use case.

Level 5: Full autonomation.
The autonomous system performs the lateral and longitudinal dynamic driving task in all situations encountered during the entire journey. No driver is required.

Note: Levels of autonomy cover road vehicles only.

The future is connected

Getting from Level 0 ‘no automation’ to level 5 ‘fully autonomous’ will not only be determined by government legislation and public opinion, but also the speed of development of current and future technologies – both for vehicles and infrastructure.

At present, the main focus with autonomous driving – at least from the public’s perspective – has been on the vehicles themselves, and the reliability of the technology that they employ. However, just as important – and arguably more so – is the infrastructure and environment that autonomous driving networks will need to operate within. Continental are at the heart of both, connecting both aspects of the challenge to help ensure a safe, secure autonomous driving experience.

Continental are developing a vast range of essential technologies and solutions that seamlessly integrate the driver, the vehicle and the infrastructure – “Making Mobility a Great Place to Live.” From ADAC to BEE (“Balanced Economy and Ecology mobility concept”) to Cellular V2X (a partnership with Vodafone that focuses on next generation 5G wireless communications between vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure) – and beyond – Continental’s experience and expertise is front and centre, driving the change and innovation necessary to integrate and connect everything together.

It’s no surprise they’re driving the future. Only Continental knows the entire braking process in every detail – from pedal to tyre – and that will become even more important as driving transitions to fully autonomous.