Continental is developing a virtual travel assistant that makes driving much more comfortable. The eTravel.Companion is an intelligent system that informs the car user like an interactive radio station. Whether it’s recommendations for free parking spaces or cheap gas stations, warnings about tire pressure loss or impending severe weather, individual sports news or tips for cultural events – the eTravel.Companion speaks up proactively, but only to the extent needed, and helps drivers make their trip as pleasant as possible. The special feature of the innovative technology: The eTravel.Companion is linked to the smartphone and thus to the user, not to a single automobile. This means that all service benefits can also be used in different vehicles – a major advantage when car-sharing or booking a rental car, for example.Thanks to artificially intelligent algorithms, the system is constantly learning and can offer individually tailored support for many facets of travel. Another innovation: The voice-based eTravel.Companion initiates every communication itself – and only if it offers real added value for a smooth trip. In practical terms, this looks like this, for example: In the car, the music of a playlist stored in the smartphone plays while the navigation device guides the vehicle to its destination. The eTravel.Companion briefly dims the music and announces: “Sorry for disturbing you, but all parking spaces at the destination are occupied. Should I choose a route to another parking garage nearby? There is also a free e-scooter from your contract provider available there, which you can use to get to your destination in three minutes.“A major advantage of Continental’s new technology: eTravel.Companion is a flexible cloud-based application. This means that the individual mobility assistants of car manufacturers or car sharing and rental car providers – parking, traffic flow, charging station apps and many more – can be seamlessly integrated. Continental’s eTravel.Companion accesses all relevant data and makes it available to the end user via voice assistance and web radio function. In principle, the new eTravel.Companion works like an all-connecting matrix, enabling a new, particularly attractive and stress-free interaction between vehicle and driver.Thanks to eTravel.Companion, the driver’s interaction with his car becomes even more intuitive and convenient. Because this is absolutely necessary: The flow of information into the car is constantly increasing. Drivers are confronted with more and more indications from the cockpit instruments or information from the infotainment systems. Added to this are a wide variety of assistance apps, mobility applications and service systems. Intelligent solutions for the interaction of drivers with their cars are therefore particularly in demand – and above all for the management, processing and, not least, the seamless provision of data from a wide range of sources.The eTravel.Companion is an evolutionary step in the design of human-machine interfaces, of HMI solutions. These human-machine interfaces determine how drivers and vehicles communicate. “One of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry today is to develop intelligent concepts for human-machine interfaces. Solutions that enhance the driving experience and allow drivers to interact with their vehicles easily and effectively – without distracting them from the traffic,” says Dr. Karsten Michels, Head of Advanced Research & Engineering at Continental. “Cloud-based service technologies are the key to natural and safe communication in the vehicle, and beyond. With the new eTravel.Companion, we are taking this crucial step further: we are coupling the assistant with the user’s smartphone, not only with the vehicle. This means that all the benefits can also be used independently of a specific vehicle.”This brings the advantage that the eTravel.Companion can be integrated into existing infotainment systems from car manufacturers or application offerings from mobility service providers. For example, the system gives car manufacturers the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition through vehicle advantages other than design, engine performance or battery range. Intelligent application solutions also offer great opportunities as a tool for customer loyalty, for identification with a brand. Such new worlds of experience in the vehicle will be an important differentiator in the future. The technology is currently undergoing intensive field testing with a major automotive company and will be ready for use and production in the near future.