Auburn Hills’ Continental to Launch Robo-Taxi Pilot Program at Oakland University

Beginning in late August, Auburn Hills-based mobility supplier Continental, France’s EasyMile autonomous shuttle manufacturer, Oakland University, and the city of Auburn Hills will implement a pilot deployment of a driverless vehicle on the grounds of the Rochester Hills campus. The testing could last as long as six months.

The pilot is supported by a grant from PlanetM, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. mobility initiative.

During the pilot, Continental will demonstrate its Zonar technology, which enables vehicle inspections via the radio-frequency identification-based (RFID) electronic-verified inspection reporting (EVIR) system. The EVIR system captures, transmits, and records inspection, compliance, and maintenance data to the operator. Additionally, the Zonar Z Pass technology detects where and when the passengers enter and exit the vehicle. The aim of this pilot project is to gather experience in the operation of driverless vehicles and to collect empirical data that will be integrated in the technological development of these vehicles.

“The technological building blocks that enable robo-taxis originate from high-volume car production and have been adapted for this new type of mobility,” says Jeremy McClain, director of Systems and Technology at Continental North America. “While driverless vehicles are by their very nature revolutionary, the process will take place in evolutionary steps, in this instance drawing on the wide array of high-performance products and solutions from Continental.”

While the pilot at Oakland University is being implemented, Continental’s researchers and developers in North America, Europe, and Asia are working to make proven series production technologies suitable for use in robo-taxis. While still rare on public roads today, driverless robo-taxis will become an important part of mobility in urban centers, helping to reduce traffic congestion and increase efficiency, the company says.

Continental has developed a production-ready radar system specifically designed for driverless vehicles. The vehicle can generate a 360-degree image of its environment by combining the data from different sensor technologies, ensuring redundancy and a higher level of accuracy than before. These radar systems function independent of visibility conditions and can even “see through” objects such as parked cars.

The central development platform for this work is the CUbE, a small driverless shuttle based on the EasyMile’s EZ10 platform. The aim is not to develop the CUbE into a production vehicle, but to get a range of Continental technologies, such as brake systems and surrounding sensors, market-ready so that they can be used in robo-taxi series production.

Continental’s radar sensor, which will be used in EasyMile’s EZ10 autonomous shuttle later this year, detects the vehicle’s environment within a radius of up to 200 meters. The vehicle is equipped with seven radar sensors, as well as laser sensors and cameras. These sensors allow the vehicle to determine its precise location, while detecting obstacles and potentially critical situations earlier.

Other Continental components and systems being tested include redundant brake systems and anti-lock braking functions for robo-taxis.