ZKW is researching the control units of the future alongside AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and FH Wiener Neustadt

FFG-funded “zoneZ” project is built on interdisciplinary collaboration

As part of the “zoneZ” research project, ZKW is working alongside the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and the Mechatronics department of the Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt (FHWN – The University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt) to research an all new class of control units for motor vehicles. The “zoneZ” project is financed and supported by the Federal Ministry of Climate Protection as part of the FTI program Mobility of the Future, and is managed under the Austrian Research Promotion Agency. The goal is to develop a zonal control unit that can control future vehicle sensors, such as radar, camera, and LiDAR, as well as actuators such as headlamps and displays. This will help driver assistance systems activate spotlights for targeted illumination of hazardous objects, or activate the parking assistant or pedestrian protection to avoid accidents. “Our objective is to structure the electronic vehicle architecture of the future in sections, defined by geometric proximity. The goal of the research project is to create a functional pattern that can be used in a statistical model, as well as in a test vehicle” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.

Control unit architecture of the future
For years, environmental sensors and evaluation of sensor data have dominated the development of driver assistance systems that will be used in autonomous driving. In the “zoneZ” project, ZKW is researching alongside its partners to identify requirements that can already be defined for the control unit and sensor systems, and what a suitable control unit architecture could look like. Their central focus is on interfaces to sensors, evaluation of sensor data and safety and security tasks. Statistical laboratory prototypes can be used to simulate a wide range of potential solutions and evaluate real world data. “Then, we will create a functional ECU prototype for a test vehicle that we can use to test out a real-life application, such as pedestrian protection” says zoneZ Project Manager Michael Stanschitz.

High-performing control unit for better safety
The three partners involved in the research project are handling different tasks: Michael Stanschitz and the ZKW team are heading up the architecture work package, and are responsible for requirements as well as for testing, verification, and the testing platform. Their objective is to show how to increase the computing power of embedded hardware by a factor of 100. The Mechatronics department at FH Wiener Neustadt is dealing with artificial intelligence. AI-based algorithms, for instance, can be used to efficiently evaluate sensor data. The AIT is researching 3D environmental detection, reconstruction and evaluation, as well as the development of robust sensors and sensor data fusion. The partners’ common goal is to create a zonal, high-performing control unit with ultra-fast interfaces for controlling future vehicle sensors and actuators. “By developing and building a functional prototype, we want to demonstrate the possibilities under real-world conditions. This could lay the foundations for a future product family at ZKW Elektronik” says Oliver Schubert.


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