HANOVER -- In Continental's view, cars will fundamentally change in the next few years.
"In the future, there will be a kind of first-class 'feel-good zone' on four wheels – equipped with sensors, cameras and telecommunication," said Continental CEO Elmar Degenhart in an interview with Automotive News Europe.
He added: "They will help with driving, parking, steering, breaking, communicating, orienting, informing, with boredom through the use of entertainment, and even with staying awake."
Cameras, for example, will be standard equipment within 10 years: "The overall technology for environment recognition is already available. It must now be introduced into the market in larger volumes. Only then can we realize our vision of accident-free driving. In large measure, this would make rear-end collisions avoidable."
At the same time, communication will change rapidly, he said: "If you want to get young people excited about the automobile, you have to provide everything that is already available in the social environment."
All automakers will face the challenge of offering appropriate Internet services affordably, Degenhart added. "Since drivers younger than 30 seldom drive luxury cars, the technology must be developed scale-ably, in order to make it available in the compact and midrange in the near future."
Degenhart said the trend is clear: "What was previously invested in performance and tuning is now increasingly being poured into communication and functionality. Here's the slogan: More networking and less horsepower. This due to increased environmental awareness, too."
Continental ranks No. 3 on the Automotive News Europe list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $24.8 billion in 2010. Europe accounted for 57 percent of that total.
The company is organized into five divisions. In 2011, the greatest growth is expected in its powertrain unit and the chassis and safety division.