Stateside, the first thing that comes to mind when someone hears “Continental” is probably “breakfast.” More bookish types might say “drift.” When we’re playing this word association game in the context of cars, you’ll probably jump instead to “tires.”
Continental Tire is based in that asylum masquerading as a state to our south, and many in Raleigh will remember them for sponsoring the bowl game in Charlotte for a couple of years, but the company is actually part of the larger Continental AG that is headquartered in Germany. Rubber might be what they’re most known for, but they also dabble in safety systems, such as the prototype demonstrated in this video.
As you can see, Continental is working on what they think is the next step in vehicle-mounted camera systems. Several manufacturers have already introduced surround-view systems that place images from four cameras on each side of the car onto your vehicle’s infotainment screen. Continental is taking this a step further and using software to stitch these camera feeds into a 360-degree 3D bird’s eye view of the car, complete with all of its surroundings and obstacles.
It sounds great in principle. Safety measures like these that assist with parking in ever more densely packed lots and garages are always useful, and the technology is definitely advancing at an exponential rate. We wonder if people will really use it, though. So often when we’re riding in someone’s car that has a rearview camera, we still find them craning their neck around with one hand on the steering wheel and reversing as they always have, completely ignoring the camera feed that pops up on their screen.
Maybe this technology will be more at home with a younger generation of drivers, one that grows up with car-mounted cameras as a norm. They’ll be standard features soon anyway, and something else that the Conti representative said jumped out at us: The processors and software used in their image stitching system is very similar to that used in rendering a lot of video games. Could it be that the mindset necessary to use this technology is also native to those who play games? We’re talking about a group of people who grow up using a controller to manipulate images they see on a screen. There’s a different level of thinking needed to place yourself outside of the car like that, to visualize it from above and all around as Continental’s system does.
There’s no telling when we’ll see a system like this in new cars. Contintental says that the image stitching technology ought to be available “fairly soon,” whatever that means, although they don’t seem set on an implementation yet. Our gut tells us it won’t be mounted in the rearview mirror like the video demonstration above. It would be more likely to see it on the infotainment display like current camera systems.
You can probably guess that this video caught our eye because the demo car is a Lincoln MKZ. We’re not trying to make any leaps based on that, but it certainly helps justify sharing this story on the Leith Lincoln blog. Until next time, we’ll see you around.