see. think. act.



Brains and Bytes: ZF Makes Cars Intelligent

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Tags: ArtificialIntelligence, SeeThinkAct, Connectivity
The vehicle of the future is naturally electric, naturally safe and naturally intelligent. But there is a lot behind the latter buzzword: namely, ZF's entire systems expertise.
Lars Weitbrecht, August 26, 2021
Lars Weitbrecht originally comes from the music and gaming industry, but in addition to holding a game pad or guitar in his hand, he also enjoys the power of the pen and the feel of the steering wheel.
Synapses in the human brain are equivalent to software running on powerful control units in cars. Whether it be neurons or bits and bytes, both use diffuse information to calculate how the vehicle should act best in a dangerous situation. Persons are ahead of computers in many respects, but unfortunately not in traffic. The statistics prove this. The number one cause of accidents is the driver, often because they are distracted or do not respond quickly enough.

So what if, in the future, vehicles themselves were intelligent enough not only to compensate for human errors, but to anticipate and prevent them or even to navigate through traffic without causing any accidents? This goal is within reach. New, innovative software functions are designed to maximize the potential of the already digitally controllable chassis technology. At the same time, innovation leaps in data-based services and functions, artificial intelligence and connectivity will soon be in volume production.
"And ZF is developing the right technology for this vehicle of the future," says Dirk Walliser, Senior Vice President Research and Development, outlining what this means: "It is electric, software-defined, connected to the cloud and part of an entire mobility ecosystem." For ZF, the intelligent car is therefore an important component of "Next Generation Mobility." This means safe, sustainable and efficient mobility that people want and which the company is driving forward with its portfolio and systems expertise.
"Powerful hardware and an innovative approach to software are what make the automobile of the future a reality."
Dirk Walliser, Senior Vice President R&D

How vehicle intelligence can be achieved

How vehicle intelligence can be achieved
ZF combines this system competence in the trio "See, Think, Act", which the technology company uses to equip vehicles of all kinds. For "See", ZF manufactures comprehensive sensor sets that precisely capture the environment. For "Act", actuators in the chassis, steering and brakes operate to navigate the car precisely. But the "Think" part, what lies between, decides how intelligent the passenger car of the future really is.
In principle, digitally supported driving functions in the car are nothing new. At least so far, because now not only their scope and the volume of data they receive but also their processing speed are reaching the next level. Soon, vehicles should not only be able to detect obstacles almost instantly, but also to calculate and implement evasive maneuvers. To make this a reality, automotive developers worldwide are busy developing new algorithms that will do just that. However, this requires not only progress in coding but also in the hardware. More powerful electronic control units (ECUs) than before are needed to extract ideal instructions at lightning speed for the chassis, brakes and the like from the sheer mass of camera, LIDAR and radar information. Until now, individual ECUs usually controlled only one actuator at a time decentrally and in isolation, connected via the CAN bus. This was far too cumbersome of an architecture for complex calculations in real time.
ZF is Driving Vehicle Intelligence

ZF ProAI: an ideal base for the software-defined car of the future

ZF ProAI: an ideal base for the software-defined car of the future
With the AI-capable supercomputer ZF ProAI, a new benchmark is created for this. Thanks to its scalability and available CPU power, ZF ProAI is an essential component for the integrative, interconnected E/E architecture of upcoming vehicle models and types. In the future, critical domains and functions will be integrated into fewer, more powerful control units and controlled by more CPU-intensive software algorithms. One such algorithm is cubiX by ZF, for example, as a communication service that coordinates the interaction between ADAS features and the actuators in the chassis. ZF middleware, which will go in volume production as of 2024, operates one level higher. This platform acts as a "mediator" between the higher-level operating system and all software-based functions of the vehicle, for automated driving, e-mobility, chassis control or integrated safety.
Incidentally: In order to make this progress accessible to as many model classes as possible, ZF ProAI is designed to also be equipped with chipsets and software from other providers if required. Dirk Walliser explains this approach of maximum flexibility as follows: "With this system, we anticipate and serve every possible combination of systems and components that our customers may have. This underscores our claim to be one of the world's leading systems suppliers for the software-defined car of the future."

Connected for more (value)

Connected for more (value)
However, vehicle intelligence does not end where the car's hood stops. The more sensors are installed and the more information the car can process, the more advantages it can derive, or provide, from this data. Here, too, ZF is out in front. Take, for example, a solution that uses existing sensor recordings to accelerate the development of new automated driving systems. In the future, other software functions will also be connected beyond the vehicle, such as with other road users, the infrastructure and the manufacturer's service platform. "As a result, function-related updates and additional options can be offered on demand throughout the vehicle's service life," says Walliser. There are so many possibilities. No one has to go to an auto repair shop for software updates anymore. Traffic information can be provided in real time to avoid traffic jams or to plan routes that save as much fuel or battery power as possible. Even later installation of completely new features is imaginable. As a result, the added value for OEMs and for drivers no longer ends when the car leaves the showroom. Instead, it is sustained throughout the vehicle's entire life cycle. More convenience, more sustainability, more safety. It really is intelligent.

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