The seat is a major comfort factor in a car. International automotive supplier Continental is using intelligent electronics to transform car seats into multifunctional component features. The company provides the controls for diverse electric adjustments, sees to the integration of air conditioning, and realizes memory, massage, and numerous safety functions. We make a wide range of seat functions possible and use innovative electronic controls to ensure that all passengers can enjoy a comfortable, relaxed, and safe journey, explains Andreas Wolf, head of Continental's Body & Security business unit. In doing so, the supplier demonstrates its finesse as a system integrator in the area of electronic seat controls and pneumatically activated seat functions. Continental has only very recently begun supplying the massage function for the new Mercedes S-Class. At the same time, Continental is working to develop a link between smartphones and the seat system for further personalization of seating functions. A demonstrator of this technology will be shown by Continental at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) 2013.
Electronic controls for perfect seating
Position adjustment is a basic seat function. For a long time now, drivers and passengers have had more options than just that of adjusting the seat back and the amount of leg room. Modern seat systems offer up to ten different adjustment axes in the seat's backrest, cushions, and headrests. They cover everything from the length of the thigh rests and the height of the shoulder pads through to the width of lumbar support. To accommodate these, some seats have eleven integrated electric motors, controlled by Continental electronics. A simple On or Off doesn't do the trick here. Indeed, vehicle passengers want to be able to very finely adjust their seats, requiring a rather slow adjustment process. The electric entry assist system of the kind found in coupés and cabrios, on the other hand, must not become a test of patience for driver and passengers.
The electronics also control the memory function with integrated anti-pinch protection. At the press of a button, the seat moves into a position conforming exactly to the driver's own saved settings. If this function is linked up with the car key, the driver's seat moves into the individually preset position before the driver even gets into the car. For this to work, the system has to be able to accurately determine the seat's position before activating the adjustment motors. That's because the electronics have to know the present positioning of the seat before they can move it into any of the other saved positions. To ensure this, Continental has developed an intelligent, self-adjusting algorithm that gets by without additional sensors. Continental's efficient electronics and software solutions are also functionally scalable. This allows for seat comfort functions in vehicles in the lower and medium price segment as well.
Comfort thanks to an electronically controlled massage
Another comfort feature in modern car seats are pneumatic systems that can reduce strain by providing special support for individual parts of the body. These employ special air cushions located underneath the upholstery and covers. More than a dozen of these are integrated into some vehicles to provide -- in addition to static systems that can be set manually by drivers and passengers -- dynamic solutions as well. These promptly alter the seat contour and adjust the support or the lateral hold in response to the road -- when cornering at high speed, for example. In addition to air cushions and airlines, more powerful yet ultra-quiet compressors are needed here. Fast switching valves and a central control unit complete the pneumatic seat system. This field of technology is gaining in importance. Initial massage functions are now already being offered in mid-range vehicles. So, we are making big strides to expand our expertise. We are integrating more and more pneumatic products and functions into seats, notes Andreas Wolf, explaining the strategy behind Continental's activities.
##IMAGE_3_R##Great climate all year round in and on the seat
A modern car seat incorporates ever more heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technologies. Here as well, the controls must be capable of doing more than just switching components on and off. For example, there is also the option of separately regulating the temperature of the seat's surface and backrest, above all gradually in several steps. In luxury-class vehicles, for example, the temperature of the seats can be adjusted in up to four separate zones to suit the passengers' individual needs. Active seat ventilation ensures pleasant summer journeys for both the driver and front passenger, even in cars experiencing a major heat buildup. Small ventilators in the seat cushions suck in the air beneath the seats and evenly distribute cooler air across the entire seat surface. An innovative head-level heating system ensures optimum climate-controlled comfort in a cabrio and makes open-top driving comfortable – even at low external temperatures. Just like the active seat cooling system, ventilators on the back of the headrests suck in air. The air is heated and flows out again from air vents in the front of the seat to act as an invisible scarf, warming the front passengers neck and shoulders.
The networked car seat
Thanks to the seat's efficient electronics, Continental can now offer the complete range of options for greater seating comfort. It has taken the next logical step and created a seat prototype that will be shown at Frankfurt Motor Show IAA 2013. This allows drivers to use their home computers or tablet PCs to configure a very individual comfort program tailored to their specific needs. From seat heating and blower functions to individual adjustment of the preferred massage setting, drivers can easily create a comfort program that perfectly suits their requirements.
Innovative from heart to cover: Seat surface developed by Benecke-Kaliko
Continental uses in his seat prototype in-house experience also for the seat cover. With the Acella® Eco product family, the Continental surface specialist Benecke-Kaliko is contributing in a major way to improving the climate in vehicle interiors. As an interior material for vehicle seats and door trim, Acella® Eco Green is is ultra-skin-friendly, free of contact allergens, and low in emissions.Acella® Eco Natural has a renewable raw material content of up to fifty percent and exhibits a fifteen percent better CO2 balance than standard cover materials.
Comprehensive series production experience – basis for our innovations
As an established supplier of innovative seat controls and systems for a host of European and North American automotive manufacturers, Continental is in a position to offer vehicle manufacturers a wide range of intelligent and cost-optimized solutions for the diverse, complex control tasks in modern vehicle seats.