We are well-equipped to deal with challenges concerning affordable automotive solutions — Harikrishna Khandavalli, Continental

Express Mobility spoke to Harikrishna Khandavalli, Head – Central Engineering, Holistic Engineering and Technologies, at Continental India to understand more on affordable tech solutions for the automotive industry.

Harikrishna Khandavalli
Harikrishna Khandavalli, Head – Central Engineering, Holistic Engineering and Technologies, at Continental India

Technology in the automotive industry is constantly evolving, and the helm of one of these technology providers in the German tier 1 major Continental. Over the years, the company has come up with numerous advancements and is now working on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential for the Indian automotive industry. 

Continental has been working on affordable solutions through its R&D. Its Technical Centre India (TCI) has been a hub of innovation with over 4,000 engineers working on solutions ranging from connected mobility to advanced safety solutions, autonomous driving technologies, and more. The German company says it is well equipped to deal with challenges and bring affordable solutions sooner rather than later. 

Express Mobility spoke to Harikrishna Khandavalli, Head – Central Engineering, Holistic Engineering and Technologies, at Continental India to understand more. 

Edited Excerpts

How has technology changed in the automotive industry in recent times?

The automotive industry has witnessed a drastic change when it comes to digital transformation, which will change both the in-vehicle technologies and how the vehicle interacts with the passenger, environment, infrastructure, and other vehicles on the road. Present-day vehicles are more than just a mode of transport. We call it ‘Mobile Living Spaces’. 

Connected and smart mobility technologies like smart access, GPS, and navigation, have already become standard features in a modern car. We will see more growth in these segments in the coming years. As per a recent Markets and Markets report, even post-pandemic, the connected vehicle market is projected to reach $166 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 25.2 percent from 2020 to 2025.

What kind of new products and technology is Continental working for the two- and four-wheeler segment?

When it comes to passenger cars, Continental is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create models that detect road objects and predict arising hazardous situations. These models can react to changing conditions and use input and output data to adjust functions. Additionally, neural networks are used for image processing and object detection. Continental has also established a system for pedestrian safety such as Turn-assist systems for cars with short-range radar for accurate detection of vehicle surroundings. The radar system can help monitor blind spots while turning, at intersections, and warn the driver of hidden pedestrians preventing a collision. 

Continental also partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop the Continental Automotive Edge (CAEdge) platform. It offers drivers functional updates via software updates from the cloud. We are providing future vehicle manufacturers and partners with a development environment for software-intensive vehicle architecture that they can use to implement software, sensors, and big data solutions in a fraction of the development time needed before. 

As a result, the vehicle software can be developed and tested more efficiently and securely and rolled out directly to vehicles. The CAEdge platform is already being tested in an OEM’s series development and has been available to other customers from end-2021.

We also have the voice-activated digital companion, which understands multiple questions and enables natural dialogue. The assistant can detect logical connections and provide distraction-free operation. Also, coming to visuals and aesthetics, we have amplified intelligent glass control connecting car windows to the onboard computer. The main goal of this technology is to provide comfort through automatic or manual discolouration of the glass.

Also Read: A modern vehicle is more than a mode of transportation, they are mobile living spaces — Govindan Soundararajan, Continental

How important is connected technology, and how will this evolve in the future?

A connected car has the potential to transform how we interact with our vehicles and how they communicate with the rest of the world. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, the automobile industry will be among the top four industries for 5G enabled service provider opportunities by 2030. 

Furthermore, connected vehicles exchange safety-critical information with the infrastructure and surrounding vehicles, reducing the number of accidents and fatalities. eHorizon is one such example, which helps the vehicle see around corners and beyond sensor vision. It also uses artificial intelligence and other technologies to process the data acquired from the entire vehicle fleet, increasing the reliability of the outputs. All this information is retained on cloud servers and made available to all stakeholders in real-time.

In the future, users will be able to access preferred functionalities through software updates throughout the vehicle’s service life. The development environment for software-intensive vehicle architectures provides the foundation for this, allowing software, sensor, and big data solutions to be implemented in a fraction of the time previously required. 

What kind of connected tech can we see for the two-wheeler segment?

We have also identified its importance in two-wheelers and are working on prototypes. We are looking at implementing eHorizon for motorcycles as well, which will assess and warn riders of hazardous road conditions. This will be integrated through the MultiViu Sports Plus instrument development platform that will have a 4.3-7-inch TFT display. Continental will configure the application, integrate the necessary services, and manage the services on cloud platforms, and the Connected Infotainment Box (CIB) will help enable data exchange between the two-wheeler and servers.  

How important is AI concerning automotive technology, and what is the road ahead?

Artificial Intelligence has found an imminent position in terms of connected and smart automotive technology. A good example of this is eHorizon, which processes the data collected from the entire vehicle fleet with the aid of AI and other technologies, which again increases the reliability of the predictions. 

It assists the vehicle to see around the corner and beyond sensor vision which ultimately makes driving more efficient, comfortable, and safe. 

The connected car uses big data to continually evolve the software-defined car, enabling them to deliver connectivity services and over-the-air (OTA) upgrades to the car throughout its lifecycle. This allows add-ons such as new features, but also essential updates to firmware and cybersecurity, to be rolled out.

How do you see the future of the automotive industry in India?

While the market for connected vehicles in India is on the rise, the infrastructure and ecosystem need to go hand in hand. Auto component suppliers would play an important role in enabling this move. There is a need to upgrade the manufacturing systems in the auto components sector and to be ready to adapt to new technologies by improving design capabilities. There is also a huge requirement for clean energy solutions to be able to fund the upcoming vehicle connectivity concepts. 

Established players also need to start encouraging new companies to partner with them through incubators. There will be a need to replace old technology with new ones.

Telecommunications and informatics service providers will also play a major role as they need to collaborate with specific solutions for automotive applications. Telecom service providers in the county will also need to up their game and offer seamless data services and networks. A reliable source of 5G connectivity can dramatically impact the capabilities of connected vehicles. The same will play a significant role in enabling vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communication at a pace and capacity that was not possible with previous networks. 

High-speed connectivity solutions facilitate global market players like us to provide the domestic market with advanced driver assistance technologies that can be paired with V2V communications. For instance, the camera that detects new roads, new traffic signs, potholes, diversions, blockades, etc, feeds the new map data to solutions like eHorizon, which provides a preview of the road ahead to other control units in the vehicle enabling fuel-saving in form of predictive cruise and transmission control, and safety improvements such as lane departure warning and Predictive ESC (electronic stability control). 

A move towards ‘Holistic Connectivity is needed’, where embedded systems inside the vehicle like High-performance computing, gateways, or sensors, and systems outside the vehicle like edge computing and cloud interact better to achieve advanced levels of autonomous driving capabilities.

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