ZF is shaping the future of the mobility industry.
Mobility may be going digital – but that is not the whole truth. Processors and computer chips process information, but they do not make a vehicle accelerate by itself. They also cannot brake, steer or protect passengers independently. Such actions continue to require a mechanical connection. This is where ZF can play to all its strengths. The Group interconnects supercomputers with its sensors and mechatronic systems to create intelligent mechanics.
ZF products enable vehicles to see, think and act. All of this is equally important when it comes to assisted driving today and autonomous driving tomorrow. First, sensor systems are needed to identify the driving lane, the vehicle’s and other road users' positions regardless of light and weather conditions. Such sensors also identify what is happening inside the vehicle. For such interior and exterior analysis, or what we call the 720-degree analysis, a smart control unit is required. Endowed with artificial intelligence, the control unit “understands” what is happening in and around the vehicle. Just as critical are the powerful actuators in the drive, braking and steering systems as well as the occupant safety systems because they are what make a vehicle move – and, in extreme cases, save passenger lives thanks to the seatbelt and airbag systems. ZF’s unique technological position is expressed in a nutshell with the motto “See – Think – Act.” Made possible by sensors, controls and actuating elements perfectly attuned to one another, this trifecta of actions has already become a reality in the Innovation Truck and Innovation Tractor 2016. Equipped with the above systems, the Innovation Truck can avoid an accident by automatically activating the emergency brakes and performing an evasive maneuver. At the same time, when driving on the freeway, it can remain in its lane and maintain a proper distance from the vehicle in front. The Innovation Tractor additionally uses electric drive power in the trailer’s axle to move over difficult terrain. Both ZF’s innovation vehicles are self-driving, meaning they can maneuver independently thanks to systems that interconnect vehicle and infrastructure. The truck reverses automatically up to the loading ramp while the tractor reverses to hitch itself to the trailer.
With an increasingly large volume of sensor data, including a multitude of possible reaction options, what kind of control unit can process this immense data volume? For self-driving vehicles in which the computer system is in full control of the vehicle, artificial intelligence (AI) will be extremely important. Thanks to the “deep learning” capacity of AI, systems can network with one another just like the human brain. Together with Nvidia, ZF is working on an AI-capable control unit. ZF will not only equip cars and trucks with it, but also agricultural and construction machinery as well as industrial applications.