Continental is weighing in on what it thinks the future of autonomous driving will look like, and developing its own autonomous testbed.

Known best for tires, Continental is also a major supplier of automotive electronics and systems. The company has built a vehicle to demonstrate driverless mobility and to develop and test autonomous driving systems and technology.

The autonomous testbed is called CUbE (Continental Urban moBility Experience). It’s a driverless car that is loaded with Continental’s own sensors and control units, as well as communications and networking tech.

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“The future of individual mobility in cities is autonomous and electric, and it will become part of the shared economy,” said Frank Jourdan, a member of Continental’s executive board.

“This is why we’re developing cross-divisional solutions for driverless robo-taxis – and we will be starting with practical testing this year,” Jourdan added.

Continental already builds most of the sensors and hardware needed for autonomy, and they build it in-house. The company has been able to develop the new autonomous platform largely by using those already-in-production parts.

At its Frankfurt location, Continental has a mini-city of infrastructure. There are road signs, traffic, pedestrians, and curbs. It’s everything a company needs to do real-world testing. That’s where Continental will be testing the CUbE.

“The trials will be used to identify all the essential technical requirements that enable safe, driverless passenger transport in urban areas,” said Dr Andree Hohm, head of the self-driving car project at Continental.

When autonomous cars arrive, comfort and appearance will matter more than where the steering wheel and pedals sit. Continental builds vehicle interiors, so it has to stay on top of what future interiors need to be.

“Cars will be much more than just a means of transport in the future. The focus will shift more toward privacy, relaxation, communication, and work. The purpose of the interior will therefore be different in the future,” said Dr Alexander Jockisch, head of business development for surface materials at Continental.

Continental said that cosiness and comfort would be more important in the future and that the CUbe would help in that research as well.

The CUbE will be on display at the Frankfurt auto show this September.