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ZF demos automotive supercomputer, autonomous minibus

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

ZF Friedrichshafen is focusing on its computer platform ZF ProAI RoboThink. The company is not averse to superlatives when it comes to describing this platform: It is said to be the most powerful AI-capable supercomputer currently available, and it should meet all requirements for automotive use.

The platform is not completely new – at last year’s CES, ZF presented a computer of this name for the same purpose. The company provided only a few details about the inner workings of this computer. In any case, it is already the 3rd generation; presumably the current issue contains the latest versions of the silicon chips on board. In any case, the device shown is a near-series version.

The ProAI draws its computing power from a combination of several processors, including Nvidia’s Xavier and Xilinx’s Zynq UltraScale+, a component that combines several heterogeneous processor cores on one chip and is optimized to deal with AI algorithms. In the platform context, the task of the Ultrascale+ is the real-time aggregation, pre-processing and distribution of the data (“Sensor Data Fusion”) within the system. In addition to this sensor data fusion, the entire computer is also responsible for processing data from the cloud and from car-to-x communication. The latter is treated as a sensor within the ProAI data architecture. In interaction, the processors collected on the platform achieve a computing power of 600 tera-ops, ZF says.


ZF is not alone in the market for such computers – its competitors Continental and Bosch have also introduced their own platforms or announced that they are working on them. In addition, Nvidia cooperates with almost all reputable car manufacturers in developing similar computer platforms; it remains to be seen to what extent the OEMs will rely on the delivered platforms in their series versions or whether they prefer their own designs. Whatever the case, ZF claims that its ProAI is the most advanced computer for autonomous cars in terms of series production.

 

The ZF Pro AI runs its own software stack for processing the control tasks associated with autonomous driving. The design follows an open, modular and scalable architecture. It is also flexible: Customers – i.e. vehicle manufacturers – can use chipsets of their own choice as well as their own software.

In addition to the computer platform, ZF is also showing a fully automatic minibus – a “People Mover”. The vehicle was developed in a joint venture named e.GO Moove with electric vehicle manufacturer e.Go Mobile. According to ZF, this is the world’s first electric minibus with full road approval. In cooperation with mobility service provider Transdev, ZF and its partner e.GO Mobile want to offer the vehicle primarily for applications in the area of mobility as a service (MaaS). The immediate goal is sales in the five-digit range.

The demonstration vehicle at the CES is already fully autonomous and therefore does not require a steering wheel or pedals. For the time being, however, there is still a human watchdog on board to monitor the systems.

 

Related articles:

Nvidia makes further inroads to automotive industry

Continental develops auto-driving computing platform with Nvidia

Daimler tests robo taxis – on a platform from Bosch and Nvidia

Daimler chooses Xilinx for AI development

Automotive-qualified MPSoC family targets ADAS platforms

Addressing the challenges of autonomous driving


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