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Continental: driving the history of tyre development, shaping the future of safer motoring


The chances are, if a technology-driven company has been around for almost 150 years, it’s reasonably safe to say that they know what they’re doing, and likely to be a leader in their area of expertise. Such beliefs apply to Continental Tyres, who since 1871 have been at the forefront of tyre development.

And that’s not all. While the majority of motorists will be aware that Continental manufacture the world’s leading premium tyres, less know is the fact that this is only one aspect of Continental’s contribution to global automotive technology – and ultimately your driver safety.

Global leaders in electronic automotive technology

There are five key automotive divisions that Continental are leading exponents of; Chassis and Safety, Powertrain, Interior, ContiTech, and – of course – Tyres. Each division specialises in the research, development, manufacture and distribution of cutting edge technology, designed to make all of our driving experiences not just safer, but more enjoyable too.

It’s why so many of the world’s leading car makers choose to integrate Continental components into their vehicles. To what extent? The chances are you don’t even realise that you’re driving a vehicle that uses their technology. From energy efficient fuel injection systems to TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems), and digital console displays to infrared sensor systems (such as those used for automatic parking and collision avoidance) – these is just some of the latest examples of automotive innovation that punctuate Continental’s rich history and heritage.

Always driving tyre development forward

And let’s not forget what Continental are best known for in the UK – their unrivalled range of superb premium tyres. These not only provide drivers with award winning dry and wet weather braking performance (Says who? Says leading UK car magazines, Auto Express and evo, for starters) but also a reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. That means their tyres not only save lives, they save money, too.

The company’s expertise and technological leadership is founded on almost 150 years of innovation, investment in people, and an unalterable set of values that are dedicated to achieving their automotive holy grail: “zero fatalities, zero injuries, zero accidents”. It’s this ambition that drives their global Vision Zero safety initiative.

Continental’s automotive technology milestones

1871: Founded in Hanover, Germany
1908: Invent the detachable wheel rim – an innovation that helps to save time and effort when changing a tyre.
1921: Introduce the first giant pneumatic tyres that replace the solid tyres fitted to commercial vehicles.
1936: Synthetic rubber is introduced into the tyre manufacturing process, paving the way for today’s sophisticated compounds.
1960: The mass production of radial tyres begins.
1967: Opening of the (now legendary) Contidrom tyre testing facility.

1972: Continental launches the studless Conti-Contact winter tyre, paving the way for today’s exceptional winter tyre range.
1983: Continental hydromounts – the special bearing elements that are used for damping in engine noise and vibrations – are mass-produced for the automotive industry.
1997: The ISAD (Integrated Starter Alternator Damper) combines a vehicle’s starter and generator in a single unit, essential for hybrid propulsion systems that help to substantially reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

2003: Introduce the ContiSportContact 2 Vmax, the world’s first road tyre approved for speeds of up to 223 mph (360 km/h).
2007: Continental become one of the top five suppliers in the global automotive industry.
2008: Production of lithium-ion batteries for use in hybrid vehicles.
2010: The new ContiSportContact™ 5 P summer tyre is launched, specifically designed for high-performance sports cars and custom vehicles.
2011: Production of electric motors.

2012: Continental becomes the first automotive supplier to be granted a autonomous vehicle testing license in the state of Nevada, USA, ultimately paving the way for the phased introduction of fully autonomous vehicles.
2013: Sustainability: ‘ContiLifeCycle’ uses a globally unique combination of rubber recycling and truck tyre retreading.  This sustainable solution extends the service life of tyres and considerably lowers costs.
2014: Continental win a GreenTec Award for their co-development project RUBIN – Industrial Emergence of Natural Rubber from Dandelion – which has the potential to be a sustainable, alternative source of rubber.
2017: Introduction of Continental’s new AllSeasonContact tyre.

Great achievements all, no doubt, but there is one milestone on this journey which has not only helped define today’s modern tyre, but also contributed to saving countless lives: the introduction of the world’s first automobile tyre with a patterned tread.

Saving lives with tyre treads

The forerunner of the tyre tread we all take for granted today was introduced by Continental in 1904. It’s this technology innovation that helps to clear water off the road surface, providing you with the grip you need to maintain control in wet weather conditions. And when this tyre tread technology is combined with Continental’s unique rubber compounds, the result is a tyre that offers unrivalled stopping distances – bring you to a safe stop quicker.

And it’s one of the reasons why so many of the world’s leading automotive marques collaborate with Continental to create bespoke Original Equipment (OE) tyres that are fitted to one in every three new cars that roll off the production lines in Europe.

The sustainability of tyre production

While heritage is all well and good, what about the future? Continental have never rested on their laurels, and won’t be doing so any time soon. In fact they’re at the forefront of solving one of the tyre industry’s most important challengers – arguably the most urgent of our time: sustainability.

The creation of sustainable tyres – one that will not only significantly contribute to saving the world’s most precious habitats, but also set the benchmark for all future tyre production – is well and truly underway. The development of dandelion rubber technology shows increasing promise, particularly with regards to proposed ‘plantations beside the tyre plants’ – a resource that can be grown on land that is traditionally unsuitable for food crops.

And, just as the introduction of tyre treads proved to be so ground breaking almost 125 years ago, so too do this and other Continental tyre technology concepts have the potential to define the future of tyre safety and reliability.

Tomorrow’s technology today

The digital age is well and truly defining our world. This, in conjunction with the dawning of the electric car era, is driving Continental’s latest electronic automotive safety technology.

One such example is their ContiSense technology. This employs a multitude of tyre sensors that can accurately measure tread depth and tyre temperature – then alert the driver if any damage has occurred. This is achieved through the transmission of real-time data via electrically conductive rubber, and has the potential to nip in the bud the the possibility of serious tyre damage (and as a result, reduce the probability of accident).

Equally as impressive is ContiAdapt, a technology that automatically adjusts pressures and rim width, so that the tyre’s contact patch can be adapted to the prevailing road conditions. This innovation will provide motorists with the additional grip they require exactly when needed,and once agin minimise the possibility of accident.

Continental believes that both of these innovative tyre technology concepts can positively contribute to the future of automotive mobility. With the continued rise in electric vehicle uptake – as well as the possible evolution of driving to a autonomous vehicle network – the tyres of tomorrow will need to be able to adapt to the needs of automated driving and electrification.

Both ContiSense and ContiAdapt build on Continental’s heritage of delivering highly successful, groundbreaking extended mobility solutions. These include their Self-Supporting Runflat (SSR), ContiSeal and ContiSilent products. And just as these three tyre technologies are now available across their premium tyre range (SSR, for example, can be found in their award winning ContiPremiumContact™ 5 it is intended for ContiSense and ContiAdapt to become available across Continental’s future range of premium tyres.

Shaping the future

It’s not just the past and present of tyre development that shine for Continental; the future is bright too. Their electronic automotive safety technology is at the forefront of the drive to create fully reliable autonomous vehicles and infrastructure, with their leading technologies implemented in both vehicles and transport networks.

Tomorrow’s vehicle interior may well resemble that which we typically find in today’s aircraft, with the driver immersed in a digital cockpit, including heads-up displays, and fully integrated with the immediate road network and safety infrastucture that you’re travelling along.

We can only begin to speculate as to what the next 150 years of tyre and automotive technology development has in store, but it’s more than likely Continental will be at the forefront of it.

For tyre expertise today and tomorrow, talk to Protyre

Continental aren’t the only ones with a legacy of providing UK drivers with the best tyres. Here at Protyre, our team of tyre professionals have been providing impartial tyre advice and expert fitting solutions for many years. We can help ensure you get the right tyres for your vehicle.

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About the author

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By Adam White
Adam looks to create engaging and informative content across the website that provides consumers with expert advice on MOTs, servicing, vehicle maintenance and tyre care. As a motorsport enthusiast, Adam enjoys documenting the Protyre Motorsport team’s involvement in major motorsport events across the UK.
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