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Continental working on new Road Departure Protection systems

Road departures can be fatal, 
especially since the majority of them happen on highways and rural 
roads. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal 
Highway Administration, approximately 55 per cent of traffic fatalities 
in the U.S. involve a vehicle crossing the roadway or centre line. In Germany, 60 per cent of fatal road accidents and 25 percent of non-
fatal road accidents occur on rural roads, according to the German Federal Statistical Office DESTATIS. That is why international 
automotive supplier Continental is working on new Road Departure Protection systems – a base and an enhanced system – that aim to 
eliminate unintended road departures, preventing fatal accidents from 
occurring on highways and rural roads.


Avoiding roadway departure crashes, which currently are not completely covered by today’s lateral guidance Advanced Driver 
Assistance Systems (ADAS), is the motivation behind developing a 
system for road departure protection. Road Departure Protection systems expand today’s lateral ADAS by active road keeping in 
emergency situations, before reaching the physical limits of vehicle 
dynamics. Based on environment perception means like road edge 
detection or road course preview, the systems should actively 
intervene when unintentionally leaving the roadway. By utilizing 
automated vehicle control, the systems keep the vehicle on the 
intended roadway and as a result better protect against rollover 
accidents or collisions with roadside obstacles or oncoming traffic.

The Road Departure Protection systems will automatically steer a 
vehicle back into its lane when it begins to inadvertently leave the 
road or cross the center line into dangerous oncoming traffic. The 
systems differ from Lane Keeping and Lane Departure Warning 
systems in that they specifically monitor the outside boundaries of the 
roadway and act with more authority to keep the vehicle within its 
intended space.

“The system serves as a virtual guard rail, protecting the vehicle and 
its occupants from accidentally leaving the road, ultimately minimizing 
the risk of a potentially fatal accident due to driver error, distractions 
or drowsiness,” said Steffen Linkenbach, Head of Systems and 
Technology for the Chassis & Safety Division, Continental North 
America. “The Road Departure Protection system enhances our 
driver assistance portfolio of products by adding an intuitive solution 
that goes beyond the warning phase by automatically steering the vehicle back into its lane while alerting the driver of the potentially 
dangerous situation.”

The base system, which uses a forward looking mono camera to detect roadway boundaries, monitors the driver’s steering angle and 
vehicle path through existing Electronic Stability Control (ESC) 
sensors and also uses chassis motion sensors to identify if the vehicle is crossing the road boundary. It then uses the existing ESC 
system to apply the individual wheel brakes to automatically steer the 
vehicle back on the road while simultaneously warning the driver and 
reducing the speed of the vehicle for safety reasons. This active 
intervention is signaled when the vehicle senses it is departing the 
road. The system’s performance is enhanced by road edge rumble 
strips, creating an opportunity for a combined vehicle plus 
infrastructure solution with high effectiveness. The system is 
designed with a driver intention recognition feature in the event that 
the driver does intend to leave the roadway for any reason.

Besides realizing a Road Departure Protection system with a mono camera and ESC, Continental is working in parallel on an Enhanced 
System: A system that uses a stereo camera and a long-range radar 
for improved detection of roadway boundaries, particularly for country roads in Europe. The long-range radar and the stereo camera of the 
Enhanced System allow the generation of an occupancy map that 
contains information about the occupancy state of a tessellated area 
in the vehicle’s field of view. Based on this map, a further 
confirmation of road departure and potential collisions with solid 
borders like curbstones, guard rails or construction site equipment is 
provided. The goal is to detect road boundaries, even when lane 
markings are missing. A coordinated brake and steering intervention 
will increase the efficiency of this system.

The further integration of road map data and on-board GPS can also support an advanced preview ESC feature that detects the course of 
the road before entering a curve. Based on the predicted upcoming 
road curvature, the driver is supported in situations where the driving dynamics are critical, for example with inappropriate speed during 
curve driving on a country road or tight curves, to keep the vehicle 
within the possible physical limits of the road. “With this cascaded 
approach, we are developing an advanced system function designed 
to address a significant proportion of traffic accidents and fatalities 
worldwide,” said Alfred Eckert, Head of Advanced Engineering within 
Continental’s Chassis & Safety Division. “Both systems have the 
potential to promote increased vehicle and driving safety and 
contribute to Continental’s Vision Zero, the goal of achieving zero 
traffic accidents.”