Continental, a German auto supplier developing car automation technology, has just received a license to operate its "highly automated vehicle" from the state of Nevada. The company is the first to join Google, which has been working on a fully-automated vehicle in the state — in August, the company announced that it had logged over 300,000 miles on the road with its autonomous Toyota Prius and Lexus RX hybrid vehicles. But unlike Google's driverless car, Continental's modified Volkswagen Passat is designed to always have a human operator behind the wheel to monitor the system. "Designed as a driver assist system, the automated vehicle can accomodate multiple driving scenarios," the company writes in a press release.
Continental has already tested the system for more than 15,000 miles. The system includes a mix of short and long range sensors to detect obstacles on the road, and the company says "the vehicle is capable of cruising down an open freeway as well as negotiating heavy rush-hour traffic." The company says that its short-term goal "is to relieve the driver of tedious and monotonous activities, such as driving on highways with minimal traffic or in low-speed situations like traffic jams." And like Google, its long-term goals are about improving safety and efficiency on the road; Continental says that its ultimate goal is to reach "zero accidents and zero fatalities on the roadways."
In a separate release issued today, Continental highlights the company's overall strategy towards automated driving technology. Continental says that it has more than 1,250 specialists working on automation technologies, and aims to reach automation by 2025, with "partial automation possible as early as 2016." While Continental does not manufacture its own vehicles, like Google, it could eventually license its technology to automakers — and as an existing parts supplier to major car manufacturers like Mercedes, it could have a head-start in getting automated technologies out of the lab and into consumer vehicles.