How Continental Became A Leader In Tyre Innovation

T Murrali
28 Jun 2024
07:00 AM
3 Min Read

By combining extensive physical tests with cutting-edge digital simulations, the tyremaker ensures its tyres meet the highest standards before reaching the market.

Continental Tire
Contidrom test site

Continental has long been a leader in tyre innovation, ensuring that every tyre meets the highest safety, performance, and longevity standards. The company's latest whitepaper, 'Tyre Testing,' delves into the rigorous testing procedures that underpin this commitment, tracing almost a century of tyre testing history and shedding light on future advancements.

Heart Of Tyre Development

Continental's tyre testing is both exhaustive and meticulous. 'We cover around 25 million test kilometres with new tyre models every year. That is the equivalent of going around the earth 625 times,' says Martin Welzhofer, Head of Global Tyre Testing at Continental Tyres. This extensive testing is critical for assessing tyre performance and ensuring high quality and safety.

Objective, Subjective Testing

Continental divides tyre testing into objective and subjective tests. Objective tests include laboratory evaluations and extensive braking tests on wet, icy, snowy, and dry roads. These tests measure tangible performance metrics such as braking distance and rolling resistance.

Continental Tire
Martin Welzhofer

On the other hand, subjective tests involve professional test drivers who evaluate the tyres' road performance on Continental's global test tracks. These tests assess stability, handling, and rolling noise on various surfaces and conditions. This combination of tests ensures that the tyres perform well under controlled and real-world conditions.

Digitalisation In Tyre Testing

Digitalisation has revolutionised the company's testing methods. Its journey towards automation began in 1968 with the introduction of the first driverless test vehicle. Today, digital testing, including virtual simulations, plays a crucial role. The driving simulator at the Contidrom test site near Hanover exemplifies this high-tech approach. A few years ago, this writer had the opportunity to drive exotic cars at the Contidrom test track and witnessed a live demonstration at the Automated Indoor Braking Analyser (AIBA).

The driver-in-the-loop simulator provides test drivers with driving impressions that closely mimic real-world conditions, enabling precise and efficient tyre development even before physical tyres are produced. This approach not only saves time and resources but also allows for faster adaptation to customer requirements.

All Season Testing

To test its winter, summer, and all-season tyres under various seasonal conditions, the company utilises its own test tracks in Arvidsjaur (Sweden), Jeversen (Germany), Uvalde (USA), and Hefei (China). Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, provides optimal conditions for winter tyre testing. In addition to its in-house Contidrom facility, the tyremaker tests summer tyres in the USA and New Zealand.

The test tracks are standardised with identical surfaces and regularly checked to maintain consistency. Testing occurs on various terrains and under all weather conditions. As a result, the global company conducts over 67,000 tyre tests annually worldwide.

Continental Tire
Automated Indoor Braking Analyser (AIBA)

Aid From AIBA

In 2012, the company introduced the AIBA. This unique facility allows the testing of the brake performance of tyres fitted to fully automated, driverless vehicles on different road surfaces year-round, irrespective of weather conditions. AIBA provides constant friction coefficients and selectable road surfaces under fully air-conditioned conditions throughout the year.

Analytic Vehicle AIBA (AVA)

AVA precisely monitors tyre friction properties on dry and wet roads. It combines the versatility of a testing method applicable to all vehicle models with the controlled, reproducible environment of the AIBA, allowing its tyre experts to perform tests independently of vehicle-specific characteristics. This cutting-edge test vehicle, unique in the world, is used at the Contidrom test track.

Achieving Excellence

Continental's rigorous testing has earned numerous accolades. For instance, the seventh generation of the PremiumContact summer tyre line has earned top marks from independent tests. In March, the Auto Club Europa (ACE) named the PremiumContact 7 the test winner for its shortest braking distances, excellent handling, and balanced steering response across all drive types.

Moreover, the company's focus on sustainability is exemplified by the UltraContact NXT, the most sustainable tyre in production. This tyre incorporates up to 65% renewable, recycled, and mass-balance-certified materials, receiving top EU tyre label ratings for rolling resistance, wet braking, and exterior noise. This demonstrates how Continental combines safety, performance, and sustainability in its tyre designs.

Continental's tyre testing processes demonstrate its unique approach to quality, safety, and innovation. By combining extensive physical tests with cutting-edge digital simulations, the company ensures that its tyres meet the highest standards before reaching the market. Its ability to balance performance and sustainability strengthens its leadership in the tyre industry.

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