Autonomous Cars, high tech, industry, Motoring News, off-road, vehicle technology

New role for autonomous cars: Tyre-tests for gravel

  • Any tyre test-track no longer needs a driver
  • Automation means better processes, accurate results
  • Automated Cruising Chauffeur luxmobile used
CHECKING THE EQUIPMENT: Continental Tyres has established a site and technology to test car tyres on gravel roads such as those common in South Africa. Image: Continental

HANOVER, Germany / Uvalde, Texas – Tyre manufacturer Continental has commissioned what it believes is the first driverless tyre-testing vehicle for a wide range of road types at a test site in Uvalde, Texas.

The new test vehicle is based on Continental’s automated Cruising Chauffeur, a vehicle developed for freeways and the intention is to glean more-accurate test data for Continental’s car and light-truck tyres ”while minimising the effect of the test procedure on the results”.

The test vehicle is controlled by a satellite-based navigation system and the car, equipped with camera and radar sensors, will react immediately automatically to a human, animal, or other unexpected obstruction on the track.


”The development team at Uvalde, Conti says, ”is thereby,contributing to making Continental’s Vision Zero strategy for accident-free driving a reality.


Nikolai Setzer, Continental executive board and head of the tyre division, told The Corner in a media release: “In a critical situation the tyres’ technology will decide whether a vehicle brakes in time.

“Tests involving an autonomous vehicle have achieved conclusive test results and thereby ensure the premium quality of our tyres.”

WATCH THE tests with the Cruising Chauffeur

Continental further explains carrying out quality tests while tyres are in use ”is a challenging task”, New rubber compounds and tyre models have to be tested under life-simulating conditions, especially on gravel roads such as those common across South Africa (see image below).


”Driving these test vehicles places a huge demand on test drivers,” Conti says, ”as even the smallest deviation on the test track can have a huge effect on the quality and comparability of the test results.”

A team led by Thomas Sych, Conti’s head of tyre-testing, has since 2016 in Uvalde been working on the future of tyre-testing. “We want to automate and so standardise tyre tests to such an extent that we can identify even the smallest differences.

“The automated vehicle enables us to reproduce processes precisely so every tyre experiences the same conditions. That way we can be sure that differences in the test are caused by the tires and not by the test procedure.”

SATELLITE ACCURACY – EVEN ON GRAVEL ROADS:  Centimeters count and can be achieved with an autonomous car. Image: Continental Tyres

Continental engineers developed an electronically controlled car to automate tyre tests 50 years ago that followed a wire glued to the track. That, however, limited its use to asphalt test tracks. Today’s prototype can also safely navigate gravel without a driver.

READ MORE Continental features on Carman’s Corner

The focus is now on developing camera/radar systems for off-road routes to ensure the car reacts appropriately when a human, animal or other vehicle appears on the route.

Sych explained. “We know from our own research that trust is extremely important for the mobility of the future. We are fully aware of this responsibility when developing these new technologies.”

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