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Germany's Continental forges ahead with self-drive car plans

German car parts supplier Continental is reported to be seeking a strategic alliance with Google and IBM, with a view to research into and the development of automated vehicles. The challenges are huge.

The DAX blue chip Continental was about to ink an alliance with the technology giants Google and IBM, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper reported that the cooperation would focus on the development of state-of-the-art systems for automated driving. The would-be partners were reported to be willing to share both investment costs and future earnings.

The alliance might be officially presented during the upcoming IAA auto show in Frankfurt in mid-September, according to the newspaper.

Starting slow, speeding up

Continental has so far tested automated driving technology in prototype cars. The company believes that as early as 2016 cars will be able to ride on roads at a speed of 30 kmh (18.64 mph) without drivers interfering in the steering process. According to the firms' plans, the next stage would be reached in 2020 when automated driving should be possible at twice that speed.

Experts said the alliance with Google and IBM would make perfect sense, given Continental's ambitions in the field. The company has already forged an alliance with networking equipment supplier Cisco to the same end.

"We're of the opinion that the potential of networked cars can best be tapped through cross-company cooperation, bringing together the expertise and technologies of business partners," Continental CEO Elmar Degenhart said in a statement in commenting on the firm's deal with Cisco.

hg/rc (Reuters, dpa)

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