Continental puts the brakes on like never before – The Blueprint

Martin Baechle, Head of System Development Future Brake Systems, on why its new system is a “gamechanger”.
Alice Cooke
New Future Braking System
New Future Braking System

Interesting Engineering

  • Continental has taken “significant” orders for its Future Braking System
  • It claims this will change the way we think about braking systems forever

  • The ultimate aim is “vision zero” – no traffic fatalities, injuries, or crashes

This story first appeared in our subscriber-only weekly Blueprint newsletter. Receive exclusive interviews and analyses like this, direct to your inbox every Sunday, by subscribing to IE+.

Continental Automotive claims to have secured its first significant order for its Future Brake System (FBS).

The German-based technology company says mass manufacture of its semi-dry brake system (also known as FBS 2) is worth approximately €1.5 billion (U.S. $1.55 billion).

And why is this such a big deal? Well, it says semi-dry brakes represent the next generation of braking, and that systems like this “are essential for drivers to be able to safely access additional electrification and automated driving features.”

To find out what difference it will make to us in real-world terms, and when, we caught up with Martin Baechle, Head of System Development Future Brake Systems, Continental

Interesting Engineering: What prompted this development in the first place?

Martin Baechle: In today’s brake systems, pressure generation is fully integrated into the brake system unit. This means that the hydraulics (i.e. the “wet” part of the brake system) transmit the force to the brake calipers of the disc brakes, or the drum brakes. 

Whereas with our approach, you no longer actuate the brakes hydraulically on the rear axle, and we see some clear advantages to this. 

For one, the brake fluid doesn’t have to be changed or disposed of, so it’s more sustainable. 

Furthermore, the installation of the rear axle is simplified, because rigid hydraulic lines can be dispensed of. 

And, if the rear axle wheel brakes are operated electromechanically, you can use them regeneratively. For example, for systematic energy recuperation at the rear axle during each braking operation. Additionally, the electric rear axle brake actuator combines the normal brake function (i.e. vehicle deceleration) with a comfortable electric park brake function, so it’s a smoother driving experience. 

Did you achieve what you set out to achieve? 

Yes, we have achieved everything we set out to do. We saw early on that with digitalization and connectivity, electric powertrains, and automated driving, brake systems need to perform a variety of tasks. 

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As a longstanding, globally proven brake system specialist, Continental was one of the first to work on an innovation roadmap that outlines the far-reaching, constant transformation. The semi-dry brake system is part of our roadmap toward completely dry brake systems.

Are there any other aims to the work that you have yet to achieve?

We still have to do some work before the SOP of the semi-dry brake system in 2025. We work closely with our customers to apply the brake system and guarantee a smooth introduction of this new technology.

What are you and the team working on now, as a result of having created this semi-dry brake system?

With our current brake system products we have created a very good basis for expanding our position in the coming years. With the semi-dry brake system specifically, we are driving forward the transformation of our markets and the further development of our technologies. 

The electrification of the wheel brake actuator is an important step on the technology roadmap, which is changing the setup of existing actuators. 

From an overall brake system point of view, the semi-dry brake system still benefits from a proven mechanic hydraulic connection on the front brake circuit. So the next big challenge is to get rid of brake fluid completely, and exchange the hydraulic actuators on the front axle with electric ones – this replaces the mechanical link between the brake pedal by an electric connection and transforms the brake system into a “full brake-by-wire” system. 

To make this long-term transformation possible at all, the individual functions of a brake system must be encapsulated as stand-alone products in modular, validated, and proven software blocks that can be integrated into various vehicles thanks to standardized interfaces based on the principle of re-use.

What could this system do for us, potentially?

A reduction of brake fluid usage supports our sustainability goals, but there is another important benefit. The dry brake actuators lower unwanted brake torque through the active control of brake torque – the fast reaction time allows you to keep more distance within brake friction partners. This contributes significantly to the increased driving range of fully electric vehicles and therefore reduces battery cost and weight. 

Also, it goes without saying that, like all our brake systems, the semi-dry system is a major contribution to realizing “vision zero” – a future without any traffic fatalities, injuries, or crashes. 

What would be the dream outcome for the development? 

As is typical with most innovations, on the way to mass production we want to continue to find new features and new possibilities for how we can contribute to either safety or comfort of brake control. Our overarching goal is to deliver a set of performance benefits with this new brake system architecture.

What barriers now stand in the way of you mass producing it?

This system combines classic brake friction technology from the well-known caliper or drum brake with established electric brake modulation technology from the ABS/ESC. Combining those two families throws up a lot of new manufacturing challenges. But it also brings together two sides of proven manufacturing know-how, so it’s not all bad. 

This story first appeared in our subscriber-only weekly Blueprint newsletter. Receive exclusive interviews and analyses like this, direct to your inbox every Sunday, by subscribing to IE+.

Quickfire questions

What or who inspires you?

The great team and team spirit that is around in our brake engineering community.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Go for a walk with my dogs and enjoy the outdoors every day.

What makes you smile?

Meeting open-minded people.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Safe introduction of brake-by-wire technology with our Continentals One-Box 1st and 2nd Generation.

What is your biggest regret?

Looking back I would have started cross-discipline work earlier.

What would you say to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Make the work interesting for every team member and understand that challenges are in fact developments.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Always look for a boss who you can learn something new from. If something is bothering you, then change something!