Believe it or not, it has been more than 50 years since the first Electronic Control Units appeared in vehicles, allowing components to “talk” to one another via bits and bytes.
Today, vehicles may have up to 100 different ECUs, each with its own software or “language.” It’s an environment that won’t meet the requirements of the Software Defined Vehicle and the innumerable improvements that will come with this revolution.
As vehicles become increasingly complex, simplified systems are needed to collect the cacophony of digital voices under the hoods of our modern vehicles into a more powerful chorus. At ZF, we see software functions moving away from decentralized controllers toward centralized systems with only a few dedicated domain control units (DCUs) for functions like automated driving, and zone controllers summarizing signals and signal processing for a specific area of the vehicle.
The key to this new structure is a smoothly integrated middleware software platform that manages system integration.
There are several advantages to this model. As a connector to the software applications and the hardware components of a vehicle, only the middleware needs to be connected to the operating system. Minimizing interfaces guarantees fast communication with all parts of the system and can help to significantly reduce the complexity of system integration for OEMs.
The same principle applies for the development of hardware components. Middleware simplifies the flexible integration of components into vehicles, providing communication in “one universal language.” It “translates” and standardizes the communication between the vehicle’s different hard- and software layers.
An open hard- and software architecture enables an accelerated and improved development process between ZF, vehicle manufacturers and other partners – from the first step of development and during the entire lifetime of the vehicle. As a result, vehicle manufacturers and end customers benefit from innovative vehicle functions that are always state-of-the-art. Thanks to our own scalable ProAI supercomputing platform for next generation vehicles, ZF is capable of providing traditional and New Automotive Customers with comprehensive systems comprising software, computing, and sensor hardware as well as connected actuators.
We believe the new triad of expertise that will be needed on the road ahead consists of Smart Systems, Functions and Software. At ZF, we are proactively pursuing the development of these key areas as well as establishing effective development processes to enable seamless collaboration with customers and development partners.
The simultaneous and interlinked hardware and software development processes at ZF provide innovative, integrated and industry-leading solutions. They are not only unparalleled at the component level but can also be expanded to comprehensive and intelligent vehicle systems that create a unique user experience.
I hope you’ll join Dr. Dirk Walliser, Senior Vice President Corporate Research & Development, to continue the conversation on this topic on May 11 here at Wards.com. Dirk will detail the exciting changes the Software Defined Vehicle and its new architectures can enable as we continue to move closer to the Next Generation of Mobility together.
Martin Fischer is president of ZF North America and member of the Board of Management.
Dr. Dirk Walliser, Senior Vice President Corporate Research & Development.
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