Continental is a technology company with more than 190,000 employees around the world, develops pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. Founded in 1871, the company offers safe, efficient, intelligent and affordable solutions for vehicles, machines, traffic and transportation. In Hungary, the company operates six factories, four R&D centers and a tire trading and logistics center. In Hungary, the Continental Group is present in all three business sectors, such as the automotive sector, tires and through ContiTech, a supplier of industrial solutions. Its domestic companies have operations in Budapest, Budaörs, Debrecen, Makó, Nyíregyháza, Szeged, Vác and Veszprém.
At its various locations in Hungary, Continental shapes the mobility of the future as one company. As to how this (and other related issues like autonomous driving) appear in the activities of Continental in this country, the Managing Director of Continental Automotive Hungary, Dr. Róbert Keszte explains to Diplomacy&Trade that “at Continental, we have been developing driver assistance systems worldwide for more than two decades, including various camera systems, radars, lidar, ultrasonic sensors and also developing algorithms to process and interpret the signals from all of these. In Hungary, our Artificial Intelligence Development Center in Budapest and our Application Development Center newly opened in September 2022 will play a leading role in the development of self-driving functions.”
Besides tires and industry solutions, the growing path is technology and innovation
A company like Continental cannot sustain itself without innovation. Last June, the company announced increasing the role of its Hungarian R&D team and rely more on Hungarian brainpower.
“The creation of our Artificial Intelligence Development Center was an important milestone in 2019 for our company on the road to automated driving. This year, we have more than 200 people working in our Budapest center, our team includes deep learning experts, embedded algorithm developers, computer vision software engineers, infrastructure engineers, project managers and data engineers. This year, the center will expand its development team in Szeged and Debrecen. Together with the function development area situated in Veszprém, Continental Hungary has become one of the most important European players in autonomous and safe mobility. Our colleagues will be working on the highly safe and affordable driver assistance and automated driving solutions that Continental's partners around the world can use,” the Managing Director highlights.
Last year, Continental redesigned its test track in Veszprém to help engineers test and further develop electronically controlled brake systems and their components.
“In addition to production and development, our engineers in Veszprém check vehicle dynamics developments in a real environment on our own test track, which is suitable for braking and vehicle dynamics tests related to highly automated and safety-related functions. The test track provides five modules to meet the testing needs, namely the dynamic surface, the handling track, the braking surface, the hill climbing and hill descent module with different gradients, and the inclined acceleration lane,” he explains. Continental’s development center in Veszprém is the full project manager for ESC systems, including the coordination of other locations worldwide, such as the Frankfurt center, which allows Continental to serve some of its customers all over the world entirely from Veszprém. In addition, its sensor development department is a center of competence worldwide for a wide range of sensor systems.
Continental has been a pioneer in road safety for more than 150 years, and now the company is taking this expectation to an even higher level with the Vision Zero concept. It succinctly summarizes the strategy from achieving the best braking performance through assisted driving solutions to zero fatalities, zero personal injuries and zero accidents. The Managing Director points out that their solutions are designed to recognize complex traffic situations and help avoid fatal road accidents. “In this way, the Application Development Center and the Artificial Intelligence Development Center in Budapest contribute to Continental's Vision Zero ambition to radically reduce the number of fatalities on our roads every day.”
Back to pre-pandemic levels
Continental is one of the world's largest automotive suppliers. However, no matter the size, it has also been affected by the pandemic and the resulting supply chain breaks. As Dr. Róbert Keszte stresses, Continental's Hungarian plants – with two exceptions – are highly dependent on global automotive market trends, and thus, the company cannot escape the declining production figures of the automotive industry. “All six of our plants in Hungary were under pressure when the new coronavirus emerged in 2020, and we were only able to increase our sales slightly in 2021. If the fourth quarter of this year develops in line with our optimistic demand expectations, we will be able to reach pre-pandemic sales levels in Hungary, despite the fact that global automotive production has not yet caught up,” he says.
Safety and sustainability
Continental’s corporate social responsibility policy is in line with the company’s ultimate goal: safety on the road. The Managing Director underlines that “one of the most important components of our corporate social responsibility is that we want to make transport accident-free. In addition, sustainability in our development and manufacturing processes is essential. By 2050, Continental's value chain must be designed around responsible sourcing and business partnerships. For the company, responsibility along the value chain means that all partners create ecological, economic and social value for society, and our environmental strategy's main ambition is to make the company's activities sustainable at all levels of the value chain. We have already received a lot of feedback on our value creation activities, with our Veszprém site being named Supplier of the Year in 2021 and our Budapest unit winning the Factory of the Year award in 2020 and 2021. Our Budapest factory also received the Factory of the Year 2020 Energy Efficiency Award, as well as the CSR Hungary Award 2021 and CSR Hungary Europa Design Award and the Open-Minded Company Award 2021”
Making an impact on mobility
Continental has implemented several investments in Hungary in the past couple of years. When asked to describe how those fit in with the company's development in this country and what the plans are for the years to come, Dr. Róbert Keszte highlights that “those working with us can really make an impact on mobility, and with our developments, we can prevent road accidents and make the movement of goods and materials more economical and more sustainable. In recent years, there have been a number of investments in our factories and development centers in Hungary that make Continental a visionary and sustainable company in Hungary. Full-scale digitalization is an expensive and slow payback process, but it is necessary. Without it, our organizations and processes will not be able to work together after a while, so it is definitely worth investing in.”
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