HANOVER, Germany -- The first fully autonomous vehicles able to handle all conditions on public roads -- and potentially replacing private car ownership, will probably not appear until after 2030, said Continental's head of self-driving car projects, Andree Hohm.
"People always ask me when driverless vehicles will be on the road," he said this month at Continental's Tech Show in Hanover, "and I tell them the answer is 'today.' If you have a very specific application area, for example like a private road, and want to travel at low velocity, you can buy such a vehicle."
Early forecasts that driverless mobility would first appear on highways have shifted, he said, with the realization of the difficulties of trying to bring a vehicle traveling at high speeds to a safe stop in case of a malfunction.
Now, Hohm said, the feeling is, at least at Continental, that low-speed, urban settings will be ground zero for autonomous driving.
Urban situations may be more complex than highways, he said, "but they have one key advantage: Slower speeds give you more opportunities when systems fail or you get erroneous readings from sensors."
Continental is active in many areas of autonomous driving technology. The supplier is working to make parts in series production suitable for use in robotaxis, and is offering some of them in the EZ10 autonomous shuttle from EasyMile, a French company in which it holds a stake. Development work is being done on the CUbE platform, which is based on the EZ10.
Continental's autonomous driving systems include the ability to generate a 360-degree image from a combination of data from radar, lidar and cameras to provide redundancy.
"We at Continental consider driverless mobility to be very promising," he said. "It will have a significant share of the mobility of the future."
Continental CEO Elmar Degenhart said in April that the overall software market alone for autonomous vehicles was expected to grow from 280 billion euros to 1.2 trillion euros by 2030.