CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) — The auto company Continental showed off some of its newest technology at its track in the Upper Peninsula on Thursday.
The track is tucked away, not far from I-75 in Brimley.
It was built 20 years ago to test things like brakes and tires in cold and snowy conditions.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm to try to place this type of facility here in the U.P.,” said Kurt Lehmann, corporate technology officer at Continental. “At the end of the day Brimley, the little town of Brimley, won and we find it fun as a person from the U.P, I find it really exciting that we’ve got such an investment here.”
Kurt Lehman has been around the facility since it’s beginning and has seen it turn into a testing site for some cutting edge technology.
“We’re working in the spirit of lets say the new technology,” Lehmann said. “You start talking about autonomous driving, but to get there there’s a few steps that we need to take and it’s with pedestrian protection, it’s with collision avoidance, it’s with car to car communication so there’s more of a collaborative nature of the driving.”
We rode along for some of Continental’s demonstrations.
The first, cars that can communicate with traffic lights and road signs.
When they approach the light, the car knows how long the light will stay red or green and can even warn you about a car running the light from another direction.
Another car didn’t have any mirrors and had its back windshield blacked out.
Replacing the mirrors, were cameras and their views were displayed on the dashboard.
They were a little hard to get used to at first, but the engineers say it keeps you eyes closer to the road, giving you better reaction time.
Continental is also testing fully autonomous cars.
“We already have them on the road,” said Ibro Muharemovic, a head of advanced engineering at Continental. “Here in Michigan, we are running every day. I personally drive one home every day, because we are learning every day, collecting date, we’re developing and this is what we’re doing, but we have a couple more years before we are ready for production.”
The cars are already driving themselves and making lane changes without the driver touching the wheel on highways.
Continental engineers say this is helping them move towards their goal of zero deaths on the road.
“Vehicles are getting smarter and we’re providing the technology for that,” Muharemovic said.
Engineers say there can be endless applications for this technology like ride sharin, public transportation and even delivery services.
The Brimley facility has anywhere from 15 to about 130 engineers there throughout the year.
Continental now has about 16,000 software engineers worldwide.