Continental lures Google self-driving exec in Silicon Valley push

Seval Oz has been head of global strategic partnerships for Google's self-driving cars project since mid-2011.

UPDATED: 8/18/14 1:55 pm ET - adds detail

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- German supplier Continental AG is growing its Silicon Valley presence to help car companies roll out autonomous driving and other “intelligent” features over the coming years -- and it has hired one of Google’s self-driving car executives to lead the effort.

The company said today that it has formed a new business unit called Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems in Silicon Valley. The unit will be led by Seval Oz, who has been head of global strategic partnerships for Google’s self-driving cars project since mid-2011.

Oz, 53, will report to Helmut Matschi, a Continental board member and president of the company’s global interiors division.

“This step is an excellent example of our strategy to make the car an integral part of the ‘Internet of Everything,’” Continental CEO Elmar Degenhart said in a statement. “Our key objectives include eliminating road accidents, minimizing energy consumption, maximizing comfort and usability of vehicles, and enabling them to exchange information with each other in real-time.”

Continental sells hardware such as sensors and cameras that automakers use for autonomous driving. But the company’s goal is to be an integrator, gathering hardware and developing underlying software -- and it already is testing a prototype autonomous vehicle on public roads to show its expertise.

Continental is competing against other large Tier 1 suppliers, such as Bosch and Delphi, which also want a piece of the growing market.

Other goals include using data from other vehicles, road infrastructure or the Internet to avoid crashes and traffic jams. Continental said it has partnerships with IBM, Cisco and Nokia for that part of the business.

It is one of more than a dozen large automakers and suppliers to set up a Silicon Valley r&d office. Continental opened that office in Santa Clara, Calif., in November and was up to 20 employees by this spring. It is still hiring aggressively.

Continental’s internal job listings show nearly a dozen open engineering positions at the Santa Clara office for software architects, testing engineers, front- and back-end developers and experts on human-machine interfaces.

Continental ranks No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with estimated worldwide sales to automakers of $33.5 billion in its 2013 fiscal year.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at



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