Revealed: how this new technology could save diesel's bacon. Plus, in-car sound system that needs no speakers
Focus on technology
You might be surprised to hear Continental has come up with a solution that could restore the waning fortunes of the diesel engine.
To most people, Continental is best known as a tyre manufacturer - the world's fourth largest. But that part of the business represents just over a quarter of its overall activity.
It is also a major producer of automotive parts, ranging from safety systems to automated driving technology and powertrains.
Up to 70pc of cars that will roll off production lines this year will have Continental parts in them.
We know that the challenge for manufacturers is to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from diesel engine exhausts to acceptable levels without adversely affecting CO2 emissions or fuel consumption.
That's something many experts say isn't feasible. However, Continental has developed a diesel engine that delivers a significant 60pc reduction in nitrogen oxide emission (Nox) while managing a 4pc drop in fuel consumption (and therefore CO2 emissions).
It combines a 48-volt hybrid system with its own high-pressure piezo common rail technology to inject precise amounts of fuel that are ignited only when they reach the catalyst.
The close-coupled electrically heated catalyst (EMICAT) quickly brings the downstream-mounted SCR catalyst to operating temperature so it can start tackling the NOx.
How significant is it? According to Continental's José Avila: "We have resolved a classic conflict of objectives in diesel engine development, showing that a clean diesel engine with emissions well within the legal limits doesn't have to consume more fuel."
The company also announced it has teamed up with BMW, Intel and Mobileye as development partner and system integrator to develop an autonomous driving platform by 2021.
Its products include latest-generation cameras with aperture angles of up to 125 degrees, cars that memorise recurring parking positions so they can park themselves, and a Cruising Chauffeur function that gives vehicles the ability to take over the driving task on motorways.
Each in isolation is impressive, but when combined it's easy to see how automated driving can become a reality.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show in September it will also showcase a 48-volt mild hybrid system to go into the Renault Scenic Hybrid Assist model, a remote cloud-key solution that could revolutionise the car rental market, and wireless charging solutions, among many other technologies.
For the wow factor though, our favourite is a sound system that generates concert quality music in a car without speakers.
It's based on the principle that most surfaces have sound frequencies at which they vibrate, so parts of the car become a speaker by using transducers to excite components to radiate sound.
Specific areas in the vehicle lend themselves to each of the required three main frequency ranges.
The A-pillar, for instance, is suited for high frequencies, while parts like the door panels have the right properties for generating medium frequencies. Low frequencies can be created from large components such as the roof lining or rear shelf. It must be the ultimate surround sound system.