With the acquisition of Elektrobit, Continental hopes to boost its sofware development expertise (Photo: Continental)

Continental is acquiring the automotive business of Finish wireless and electronics group Elektrobit, underlining the growing importance of software for tomorrow's vehicles.

Continental said that, subject to antitrust approval, it will pay 600 million euros for Elektrobit Automotive, which is based in Germany and employs 1,900 people. The German supplier said the acquisition will, in particular, boost its ability to develop automated driving systems.

Like its rival Robert Bosch, Continental is increasingly focused on providing electronic systems for cars that will have many more advanced driver assistance functions than are available today. Continental has been at the forefront of developing technologies that are expected to lead to autonomous cars in the next 10 to 20 years.

Elektrobit CEO Jukka Harju said in a statement that the acquisition will provide Continental with his company's strong software capabilities, while opening up a bigger automotive market for the specialist unit. "The carmakers continue to invest in automotive software for new car models and the market for software products and services is estimated to continue to grow," Harju said.

Elektrobit and Continental have cooperated on the development of software for the past decade. Continental currently employs 11,000 people in its software development operations.

Once the transaction clears, Continental will acquire the Elektrobit brand name and the Finnish company will be renamed Bittium Corporation.

Elektrobit Automotive had sales of 171 million euros in 2014.