In modern vehicles, electronic systems are taking on more and more functions to assist the driver. Whether via remote key or smartphone, one click is all it takes to open doors, windows, the roof, or the trunk. At the first signs of raindrops, the windshield wipers come on automatically, and the headlamps are automatically activated when it starts to get dark. Continental is constantly working to improve these high-tech switching systems for greater safety and comfort in passenger cars. "In the same way that a brain acts as the control center of living organisms, a body control unit controls a range of vehicle systems," explains Andreas Wolf, Head of the Continental Body & Security business unit.
Body control units work behind the scenes, pulling the automotive strings: They control and monitor many individual electronic functions in a passenger car – covering everything from vehicle lighting and illumination to the automatic start/stop system. The heart of any control unit is a processor with a corresponding working memory. The big advantage of a body control unit is that with multiple functions being combined in a single device, the overall need for cables is greatly reduced. This saves weight and reduces costs. In addition, the highly-integrated control unit also provides energy management functions for the different power flows and ensures that the electrical systems are not overloaded. Prof. Manfred Krüger, Chair of Vehicle Electronics and Microcontrollers at the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences, explains: "The diversity of vehicle functions is constantly increasing. Cruise control, parking aids, and lane change assist systems are just a few examples." According to Professor Krüger, the demand for comfort functions is also set to increase. Continental uses a variable, modular system to allow increased use of body control units in small vehicles as well. As a result, with minimal effort body control units can be adapted for use in completely different types of passenger car. The goal of the developers at Continental is to keep increasing the number of functions on offer, but at the same time to reduce costs by up to 30%. An important step for the future, as Professor Krüger confirms: "In order to control costs, the centralization of control units will continue. The range of functions will increase, and there will no longer be any vehicles with 50 or 60 different control units. Instead, we will have just a handful of central control units that communicate with each other via a high-speed network."