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Change is the only constant in the world of technology, and even more so when it comes to automotive technologies. Continental India has developed new technologies to bring a much-awaited change in the aspect of safety for two-wheelers. The technologies in question could revolutionise safety for mainstream two-wheelers.
Continental India organised the 2-Wheeler TechDrive at Taneja Aerospace & Aviation Limited, a private airport near Hosur, on the outskirts of Bangalore to demonstrate some of these technologies and for us to experience some more of them. Well, a lot of slipping and sliding ensued throughout the day, all in the name of automotive safety of course.
Motorcycles are widely considered to be one of the most dangerous forms of transport in the world. There's good reason for this belief. On a two-wheeler, the rider isn't shielded by an external shell like in a car, bus or even a three-wheeler. Also, two-wheelers can't really keep themselves upright. This increases the chances of having a crash exponentially.
Given these conditions, it is quite obvious that two-wheelers need more safety solutions than any other form of vehicular transport. However, the development of safety for two-wheelers has been rather slow and has picked up pace in recent years only. While some premium motorcycles get active and passive safety features, the mainstream and more popular models are left wanting. That is where what Continental India is doing, matters the most.
Continental India is the Indian subsidiary of Global automotive tech giant and OEM supplier Continental AG. Continental is known for its revolutionary technology and is a brand that supplies lots of components to hundreds of manufacturers around the globe. While the brand has in the past produced lots of components for two-wheelers, the focus towards safety has increased in recent times.
The result of two-wheeler safety being prioritised, was showcased at 2-Wheeler TechDrive. With access to the runway and the skidpad, the engineers at Continental were well-prepared to showcase their development to the major two-wheeler manufacturers in the country.
In a large pavilion set up beside the runway, various teams from Continental who had worked on various products showcased the modules and hardware developed by the brand. Everything from tyres to seat surface materials, and ECU modules to carbon-infused timing belts were on display in the pavilion.
Continental Surface Solutions displayed a unique seat surface that absorbs lesser heat and deflects it. This is something that can be extremely useful during the summer when the sun is at its blazing best. The brand also displayed a few tyres that aren't on sale in India yet. These tyres appeared to be of the perfect size for scooters and might be launched in India if a manufacturer shows interest in it.
Apart from this, Continental India has displayed an array of electronics and two-wheeler components that are used for various purposes. This includes Synchroforce Carbon belt, Synchrochain Carbon belt, generic Vehicle Control Unit, TFT display solutions, diagnostic solutions, hybrid display solutions, key as a solution, engine speed sensor, wheel speed sensors, etc.
This being the age of EVs, Continental also displayed its Battery Management Systems, Telematics Control Unit, Digital Service Platform, Deflation Detection System, etc. Then of course, there were the technologies we were about to put to the test. The modules and the hardware units used in these technologies were also displayed at the pavilion.
This includes ABS, Traction Control, Blind Spot Detection, Optimised Curve Braking, Lane Change Assist, and Advanced Rider Assistance System (ARAS). After taking a good look at the hardware, we headed out to put them to the test.
ABS & Traction Control
First up was the kid pad where we would put Continental's ABS and Traction control to the test. Both traction control as well as ABS are already available in the market across a wide range of scooters and motorcycles. Continental India however, is aiming at taking it to the next level.
The brand has developed hardware that integrates both technologies, and this is something that hasn't been done yet in the two-wheeler world. Continental's advanced ABS hardware is available in three configurations. The most basic configuration involves just a single-channel system while the top-spec model integrated traction control as well as an IMU (Inertia Measurement Unit) in the same unit.
We however, were all set to test the mid-range unit. This is a two-channel ABS unit that has also integrated traction control into it. It also has capabilities to handle an external IMU and this will allow it to have features like cornering ABS too.
We were to ride a powerful scooter with an engine capacity of over 500cc and a maximum power output of around 45bhp. The surface on which were to ride it was slippery at best and the surface was continually sprayed with water to keep the conditions slippery. This simply meant, there was a lot of sliding to be done.
With traction control turned off, the scooter spun its rear wheel endlessly and things went sideways real quick. Then it was time to showcase the capabilities of the traction control developed by Continental. Wringing the throttle wide open on the same slippery surface with traction control turned on didn't leave any room for drama.
The scooter accelerated in a straight line and picked up speed pretty quickly without losing traction even once. Up next was the ABS test. All along, while testing the traction control, the maxi-scooter didn't lose its line even upon grabbing a handful of brakes. However, this changed really quick with the ABS being turned off.
With the ABS shut off, the scooter's brakes locked up even at the slightest hint of braking. This goes to show just how effective the ABS really is. It does make a huge difference in terms of braking prowess. Traction wasn't lost even once, under braking or acceleration and that is commendable given how slippery the surface was.
Cornering ABS & ARAS
To test these technologies, we headed out onto the runway and it was easy to see why the Continental team required the runway to be used for this. The riders needed a wide berth to really put the system to the test.
First up was the Cornering ABS system or in Continental's terms, Optimised Curve Braking. The motorcycle used fo the demonstration was a popular supersport and it was fitted with a rig to ensure there is no crash.
The task at hand for us was to unlearn the corner entry approach that we as riders had learnt over the years. Instead of downshifting and braking before the corner, we had to get the motorcycle to a speed of around 60-70km/h and then pull the clutch it, enter the corner at that speed and then hit the brakes hard!
After a couple of attempts, we got the corner entry absolutely right and the difference that Continental's Optimised Curve Braking made was outright impressive. Entering a corner at those speeds with no engine braking and braking hard would definitely result in a massive crash if not for the technology developed by Continental.
The system works with the help of an inertial measurement unit and increases or decreases braking pressure according to the degree of lean. For example, at a lean angle of around 40-degrees, the braking pressure exerted by the ABS is at its lowest. At 30-degrees, braking force is increased and at angles below 15-degrees, it is at its maximum.
Such technologies do exist on larger, more powerful and super expensive motorcycles. However, it is also needed on lower capacity, more affordable motorcycles and Continental might be successful in getting it there.
Advanced Rider Assistance Systems
This is where Continental India is attempting to take mainstream motorcycles to the next level in terms of technology. We have all heard of the Ducati Multistradas and Triumph Tigers with the radar at the front and rear to warn the rider of vehicles in the blind spot.
Well, Continental has successfully implemented such a technology in one of the mainstream Indian supersport motorcycles and the tech was demonstrated at real-world highway speeds. LED strips mounted on the rear view mirrors warned the rider of the vehicle in the blind spot.
An LED strip mounted near the instrument cluster warns the rider of a vehicle ahead going at a lower speed. Finally, there is a bright LED light at the rear that blinks rapidly to warn a fast approaching vehicle of the motorcycles's presence. These technologies will surely make riding a motorcycle much safer than it currently is.
Thoughts On Continental India Displaying Advanced Technologies At 2-Wheeler TechDrive
Automotive technology has come a long way since its rather simple beginnings. Going forward from here, riders will have to rely heavily on technology for their motorcycle rides to remain safe and secure. Continental India certainly seems to be ahead leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in implementing these technologies in mainstream motorcycles.