Continental plans to bolster global network of AI experts

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Continental intends to increase its team of experts in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) from about 400 employees to 700 by 2021. The company cited this figure during its first international Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (AIR) Days during November 7–9, 2018 in Frankfurt. Close to 200 Continental experts in artificial intelligence and robotics exchanged information about current developments in this research field. AIR Days are part of the Continental strategy to bolster it as a technology company that utilizes artificial intelligence in all areas.

“Continental will become an ‘AI-empowered company’. On the product side, we will deploy artificial intelligence to automate mobility. This will make commuting and traveling easier for us all. In process automation, artificial intelligence will make our employees’ work easier. Monotonous tasks will be further automated and relevant information from a huge volume of data will be more identifiable,”  Demetrio Aiello, Head of Artificial Intelligence & Robotics at Continental, said.

Experts from ten countries and three continents exchanged ideas, including those about the opportunities and potential for AI in Production and Logistics. For example, AI could optimize quality tests at the end of the production line and in the resource planning. This will enable even more refined demand forecasting as well as reduced set-up and service times thanks to improved service forecasting. The Continental experts are sure that AI systems can contribute to cost reduction as a result.

Safe, efficient mobility

Experts expect the most clearly visible progress using artificial intelligence in the field of advanced driver assistance systems. AI will allow vehicle systems to recognize pedestrians and cyclists as well as their gestures and intentions with much greater precision and reliability. This will reduce the potential number of false alarms and increase acceptance of corresponding systems. These methods can also recognize the presence of pedestrians even if they are almost completely hidden from view behind a parked delivery vehicle. They can also notice in time whether pedestrians are actually watching the traffic carefully or are being distracted by their smartphones. These algorithms will be integrated in a variety of applications such as automated driving systems, advanced driver assistance systems, cornering assistance systems and much more. Lastly, AI-based driving strategies to increase the range of electric cars over the next few generations will provide another piece of the puzzle in dispelling range anxiety.

Global collaborations

Guest lecturers from research institutes such as Oxford, Berkeley and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence were a highlight of Continental’s AIR Days. Here, participants discussed with the speakers new approaches for optimizing neural networks and the continuous learning process of mobile robots. “Our experiences of collaborating with the various international research institutes clearly show that pooling knowledge proves worthwhile very quickly, especially in the field of AI research. We will also continue to expand these research networks in the future. Even merely the shared use of available data from Product Development and Production allows us faster access to AI systems that have already been validated for safer products and more efficient processes,”  Aiello described the benefits of various partnerships.

AI research                              

In 2015, Continental set up a central AI predevelopment department to coordinate the various AI research activities. The technology company is collaborating with NVIDIA, Baidu and many other research institutes in this field, including the University of Oxford, the Berkeley Deep Drive (BDD) at the University of California, the Technische Universität Darmstadt, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

In Budapest, Hungary, the Continental Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit opened a centre of excellence for deep machine learning in May 2018. The technology company employs around 400 specialists worldwide with AI expertise and is looking for more such people for product and process development in artificial intelligence.

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