ZF ProAI: The Source of Vehicle Intelligence

Min Reading Time
The intelligence of future vehicles will be controlled by a few extremely powerful central computers like the new ZF ProAI. It is the most flexible, scalable and powerful automotive-grade supercomputer on the market.
Jan Wienrich, April 16, 2021
Jan Wienrich has been working as a cross-media publisher at ZF for several years. He is specialized in topics ranging from automated to autonomous driving.
Modern vehicles feature increasingly more software functions. When software combines the intelligence of sensor information with the control of smart actuators, new powerful functions like driver assist systems emerge, which provide more comfort, more safety, or even more range when driving electrically. This is only possible with smart software algorithms. In traditional vehicle architectures, the bits and bytes act mainly in decentralized electronic control units (ECUs). In new and future vehicle platforms, the electric and electronic architecture (E/E architecture) will change dramatically. The computing power and the main software functions will be bundled in a few domain or zone controllers.

At Auto Shanghai 2021, the ZF Group presented the next generation of its automotive-grade supercomputer ZF ProAI for the first time. This central computer perfectly meets the manufacturers' requirements for the software-defined vehicles and their new E/E-architectures. It can serve as domain, zone or central controller.
“The ZF ProAI is currently the most flexible, scalable, and powerful automotive-grade supercomputer in the world,” said Oliver Briemle, Head of L4 Feature Development, Domain Control and V2X at ZF.
It is suitable for any vehicle type and for all levels of automated and autonomous driving: from Level 2 to Level 5.
ZF ProAI - Source of Intelligence

Standardization meets scalability

Standardization meets scalability

Customized high-performance solutions for vehicle intelligence, suitable to any vehicle platform, but based on a single product – that’s the new ZF ProAI.
“When developing the new ZF ProAI, we paid particular attention to two things: standardization and scalability. Because this simplifies the choice immensely when selecting ZF ProAI as the central computer for a vehicle: No matter what the application needs are – ZF has the ideal solution,” said Briemle.
Standardization and flexibility are also key for the processor and the connectors: The supercomputer’s modular set-up means it can be equipped with System-on-Chip (SoC) variants from different manufacturers – depending on the planned application and the computing power required. The connectors are compatible with all common plugs on the market. Also, ZF has relied on the highest level of flexibility regarding software. In addition to in-house solutions, the supercomputer also runs programs and operating systems of the OEMs or third-party developers. Depending on the desired performance, three cooling options are available: passive cooling, air cooling and liquid cooling. Nevertheless, the installation dimensions remain the same: The new ZF ProAI has a uniform and compact housing size of only 240 x 138 x 49 millimeters. This is significantly smaller than its previous models and thus gives more freedom in the choice of installation options in the vehicle.
“When developing the new ZF ProAI, we paid particular attention to two things: standardization and scalability.”
Oliver Briemle, Head of L4 Feature Development, Domain Control and V2X at ZF

More performance, less power consumption

More performance, less power consumption

The new ZF ProAI also comes with more performance than ever before. Depending on the desired application from Level 2 to Level 5 and the corresponding computing power required, ZF ProAI can execute between 20 trillion and one quadrillion computing steps – per second. With a performance of up to 250 TOPS per unit, that’s an increase of 66 percent compared to the previous model, the ZF ProAI RoboThink.
And while performance increases, power consumption drops even more: With 1 watt of power, the ProAI achieves a performance of approximately 3 TOPS. That's up to 70 percent less power consumption than before. And, as an automotive grade product, its high-tech interior is resilient and reliable even under harsh conditions. It also offers an ASIL-D computing performance with state-of-the-art protection against cyber threats.

Enabling new vehicle functions and tapping their full potential: The AI-capabilities of ZF ProAI are optimized for deep learning processes, further enhancing its ability to deliver advanced safety features. The board offers a 360° GPU-driven fusion of all available sensor data, including environmental measurement data from radars, LiDARs, cameras and audio patterns.
‎ZF also provides a measurement data interface (MDI) for ProAI to forward the collected sensor data unaltered to a central storage system for development and testing purposes. This makes it much easier for developers to train artificial intelligence for autonomous driving.
Given such possibilities, it is not surprising that orders are already being placed with ZF. The first volume production for the latest version of the ZF ProAI will start in 2024.

ZF ProAI Product Overview