Helmut Matschi, head of interiors at Continental AG, says automated driving will emerge gradually in the next decade. He was interviewed in German by Henning Krogh of Automobilwoche, an affiliate of Automotive News. What follows is an edited translation.
Q: Google has presented a prototype for a self-driving two-seater. How important is autonomous driving to Continental?
A: Very important. That is why we are following a long-term plan and are working on three major issues in the interiors division: first, even better networking; second, more comprehensive system integration; third, we need a holistic interaction plan.
When will automated driving go into regular production?
We can easily imagine the first technical step of partially automated driving on the road in 2016. The transition from highly automated to fully automated driving will only take place much later -- when responsibility will at times be transferred to the automobile. Here we assume 2020 to 2025 as the time frame.
How important is sheer size to a supplier in the hotly contested IT business worldwide?
We do not consider size to be the relevant issue. The really crucial factors are sustainability of the business model, solutions that are as smart as possible and most of all a thriving collaboration.
What sort of cooperation do you envision?
We consider partnering to be extremely significant for the analysis of huge quantities of data. As a result, we have entered into a partnership on big data analytics with IBM. We are working with Cisco on efficient and secure data transmission. And we will need digital maps with the highest possible precision for more than just automated driving. We are cooperating with Nokia in this area.
Many users take notice when they hear the word "data." What can Continental do to protect drivers from unauthorized access reliably?
Continental definitely considers the individual and his security to be high-profile issues for the networked vehicle. People have recognized the huge importance of data protection.
Who owns the data generated by network vehicles?
There has been a major global debate on this from various perspectives. Continental needs no driver-related data whatsoever to implement eHorizon [Continental's advanced navigation], for example. It will be ready for regular production in 2017. The complete anonymization of data is possible and desirable for our electronic horizon.
The life cycle of IT solutions in vehicles is shortening. How can suppliers adjust?
By keeping hardware and the software behind it as independent as possible of a particular provider. For a long time, Continental has deliberately turned to platforms and interfaces that are as open as possible.
Small cars often have sophisticated infotainment. What's left for premium cars?
Tier 1 suppliers such as Continental have extremely high development costs for high-end projects. In view of the comparably low volumes, you would actually need higher margins or a longer period of delivery. But that doesn't work in practice. So Continental is clearly stressing mainstream devices in the infotainment and connectivity areas.