David Pineda Deom
Head of R&D Queretaro and ADAS Mexico
Continental
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Continental Queretaro Advances Global Vehicle Autonomy, Safety

By Antonio Gozain | Sat, 08/27/2022 - 09:00

Q: How does Continental Queretaro contribute to increasing automotive safety?

A: Continental’s history of product development for the automotive industry began over 22 years ago. Our bet is on Mexican talent, which has proved to be highly capable to develop automotive technology. In 2018, we inaugurated our design center in Queretaro, which will have over 800 collaborators by the end of 2022.

The center develops technology that defines the mobility of the present and future, aiming to save lives. We have developed products, such as air bag control modules, brake modules, smart battery sensors, long and short-range radars, laser sensors, cameras and other systems, to benefit vehicles and users.

Q: How does the Queretaro center collaborate with other Continental R&D hubs across the world?

A: The R&D center belongs to Continental’s global product development network. Most of our clients are based in North America but we also have clients from the EU and Asia. The center interacts with other Continental plants to collaborate and develop products, systems and services that offer added value to clients. The Queretaro center also collaborates with Continental’s network on continuous improvement. Centers continuously reflect on lessons learned and best practices to develop tools to meet their different needs.

Q: How is Continental’s center in Queretaro advancing vehicle autonomy?

A: In Queretaro, we have several teams developing state-of-the-art automotive technology. One of these teams was co-responsible for the first solid-state light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensor, which allows the vehicle to create a 3D model of its environment in real time. This sensor is equipped on a vehicle that was introduced to the Japanese market in 2021. LiDAR technology is essential for the autonomous vehicles of the future. This milestone directly involves Queretaro in the autonomy of the future.

Q: What role did Continental’s center in Queretaro play in the development of the Trailer Reverse Assist system?

A: The automotive industry is going through a huge transformation involving not just products but functionalities with a focus on software and algorithms as a product. The Queretaro center designed between 70-80 percent of the algorithms that enable the Trailer Reverse Assist system, which has been incorporated on a pick-up truck from a well-known brand in North America that is already on the market.

The Trailer Reverse Assist system allows the driver to control the trailer with a knob using only a video camera. Drivers decide where they want the trailer to go and the truck’s steering wheel moves on its own.

Q: Considering limited supplies and semiconductor shortages, how can the R&D division develop solutions that require fewer components?

A: The biggest impact on the automotive industry has been the semiconductor shortage, which also spurred us to increase development activities. When a component is not available, we kick off a redesign process to look for alternatives with available components. This redesign needs a complete series of validations to ensure that the final product works perfectly.

The changing needs of society and final customers are pushing the industry to adapt to new trends, such as cloud computing, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cybersecurity. This represents a challenge but also a large opportunity. The industry transformation allows us to form these specialized teams that develop new technologies to get involved in the new trends.

Q: What will the mobility of the future look like and how is Continental shaping it through R&D?

A: The mobility of the future is safe, autonomous, intelligent and connected. The new mobility and business models have pushed us to transform our approach and skills and experiment with new business models. The Queretaro center is not only focused on developing LiDAR sensors. We also have teams focused on brakes, which are developing a contained brake-by-wire system in which the pedal is electronically connected. This equipment will also play an essential role for the autonomous vehicle of the future. We also have teams working exclusively on telematics and on the implementation of automotive technologies in other industries. For instance, using LiDAR sensors for the fishing industry.

Q: What are the main challenges and opportunities of running an R&D center in Mexico?

A: While the automotive industry is important to Mexico, it heavily focuses on manufacturing. In the long term, manufacturing will not necessarily bring added value to the country. Our design center has the necessary talent to add much more value and develop state-of-the-art technology.

One of the main challenges is the limited support from the public sector. The government’s strategy is mainly focused on manufacturing but it could shift to R&D. It is time for Mexico to seize the opportunity and foster R&D through talent development and industry initiatives that are boosted by the public sector.

Q: What makes Queretaro the ideal location for this center?

A: Queretaro’s ecosystem in terms of academia, industry and government is very favorable for R&D. The state has numerous automotive companies and foments a positive interaction between academia and government. Jointly with Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (UAQ), we recently celebrated the yearly closing of the dual education program. Under this program, aspiring engineers in their final semester work with Continental engineers for a year, learning the automotive foundations from early stages.

Jointly with the local and state governments, we are implementing smart road intersections in Queretaro that will be connected to a network of short- and long-range radars, sensors and cameras to enable us to develop intelligence to identify collision courses, accident-prone areas and detect vehicle flow, among several other opportunities.

Q: How will Continental continue creating the “future in motion?”

A: Continental’s structure was reformed years ago and is already aligned with industry megatrends. The relevance of R&D centers will continue to grow in the coming years. Talent development plays a key role to continue developing new technologies. Globally, this talent is scarce. Continental is aware that without our people we are nothing. Therefore, we will continue developing talent and skills to enable the new technologies of the future.

 

Continental AG is a German auto parts manufacturer focused on brake systems, interior electronics, automotive safety, powertrain and chassis components and tires. Since 2018, Continental operates an R&D center in Queretaro that focuses on safety and motion, autonomous mobility, user experience, smart mobility, architecture and communication.

Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst