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ZF Vehicle Motion Control ZF Vehicle Motion Control

Number One for Chassis

New requirements – new supplier: with the Chassis Solutions Division, ZF bundles its expertise for everything that keeps vehicles on the road and in the lane. The merger of the previous Active Safety Systems and Car Chassis Technology Divisions creates a veritable powerhouse for Vehicle Motion Control.

Date: 2024-01-02

You can't see it from the outside – but "the car" has largely been reinvented in recent years. The transformation in the entire automotive industry is just as wide-ranging – for manufacturers and for suppliers. Electrified drives – from hybrid to purely battery-electric – are conquering the markets. More and more digital assistants are supporting drivers. These ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistant Systems) use data that is collected and evaluated by sensors in, on and around the vehicle and converted into drive commands in milliseconds. The various levels of automated driving (AD) at which the vehicle electronics can independently control the vehicle are also ready for widespread use.

At the same time, the electronics architecture of modern passenger cars has also changed – a small revolution in automotive development that points toward a software-defined vehicle: Central computers and domain controllers are increasingly replacing decentralized control systems and making the development of networked driving functions faster and easier.

Last but not least, the market and customer requirements have changed: Customers are increasingly looking for shorter development times and faster time to market. And new business models are emerging around software as an independent product or individualized service.

How driving "feels"

The term Vehicle Motion Control refers to the control of all vehicle movements: Be it longitudinally during a sudden braking maneuver, as part of dynamic cornering with transverse dynamic precision, or the careful handling of vertical forces on a bumpy road. This technical control ensures that the vehicle stays under control in all driving situations – and provides a specific driving feel.

The chassis as the focus

"All these developments also have an impact on the chassis. They open up new prospects and possibilities for chassis features and Vehicle Motion Control functions," explains Dr. Peter Holdmann, head of the newly created ZF Chassis Solutions Division. ZF reacted immediately to the changed conditions and started bundling its complete portfolio for longitudinal, transverse and vertical dynamics under the umbrella of the new corporate unit in January 2024. Components, brakes, steering systems, dampers including software expertise for their control and networking as well as interfaces to the drive now come from a single source – a unique offering within the industry. "In this way, we are adapting to the future needs and transformation of the automotive industry. In particular, the added importance of software plays a key role," explains Holdmann. For many chassis functions will be able to be implemented via "code" in the future.

"All these developments also have an impact on the chassis. They open up new prospects and possibilities for chassis features and Vehicle Motion Control functions."
Dr. Peter Holdmann, Head of Chassis Solutions Division

After all, both the individuals behind the wheel and the passengers have different needs and demands. While sporty drivers seek the energy of performance and dynamism, families inevitably focus on the safety of their loved ones. Comfort is also becoming increasingly important as a feature when, in autonomous driving, all occupants become passengers that can spend their time doing other things such as reading, writing or watching a movie.

X-by-wire: Software makes the difference

Software functions can deliver driving characteristics thanks to more and more active systems in the chassis. Brake and steering systems will soon also be controlled purely by electronic impulses, i.e., by wire. "With our x-by-wire portfolio, we offer an undisputed interface to the software-defined vehicle on the market," affirms Manfred Meyer, Head of Development Chassis Solutions. Interconnected by-wire systems offer better vehicle control, shorter braking distances, more steering flexibility, greater driving stability at high speeds, and greater range and efficiency.


Just three examples that drivers can also feel:

  • Brake-by-wire systems in all-electric vehicles are also easier to combine with recuperation through the electric motor. This in turn assists braking. More energy is then recovered overall, thus increasing the range.
  • With steer-by-wire systems, the steering wheel angle is variable – on the motorway, the steering "feels" safer, while comfort increases with urban parking because the vehicle moves into the parking space with just a few turns of the steering wheel.
  • And finally, depending on the setup, the fully active chassis control system sMOTION helps make driving either more comfortable or more dynamic. One thing though, it will definitely be safer.

Complete provider with prospects

These examples also demonstrate the strength of the new Chassis Solutions Division, which emerged from the two ZF Active Safety Systems and Car Chassis Technology Divisions. With 35,000 employees at 63 production sites and 19 development centers worldwide, it is one of the world's largest providers of Vehicle Motion Control – and boasts the largest range of expertise and products. "We can now respond faster and more efficiently to customer inquiries and develop solutions that are even more tailor-made and competitive to meet the diverse challenges in the chassis," Dr. Peter Holdmann sums up.

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