ZF rolls automotive middleware layer

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

In a preview at CES 2021, ZF presented its new middleware. This open software platform fulfils the function of an intermediary between the operating system of a vehicle computer and its software applications. Key functions of the middleware are the abstraction of the computer hardware from software applications and the communication between these applications.

With the ZF middleware, ZF underlines its claim to be one of the world’s leading system suppliers for the software-defined car of the future. Automotive OEMs are expected to benefit from accelerated development processes and significantly reduced complexity in the integration of hardware and software. Throughout the vehicle’s lifetime, functions can be updated or additionally offered on demand.

As a comprehensive software platform, ZF middleware will be available in production vehicles from 2024. Its development is closely linked to the development of application software for technology fields such as automated driving, integrated safety, vehicle motion control and electromobility.

Functioning as link layer between the software applications and the hardware components of a vehicle, only the middleware needs to be connected to the operating system. According to ZF, this approach minimises the number of interfaces, ensures fast communication with all parts of the system and can help to significantly reduce the complexity of system integration for the vehicle manufacturer.

The open hardware and software architecture enables an accelerated and improved development process between ZF, vehicle manufacturers and other partners – throughout the entire lifecycle of the vehicle. This benefits vehicle manufacturers and end customers because it means that functions can always be kept at the cutting edge of technology. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer’s software architecture, ZF’s middleware offers a modular approach ranging from a complete platform solution to individual modules that can be integrated into the vehicle manufacturer’s software platform. Thanks to its own scalable high-performance computing platform ZF ProAI for next-generation vehicles, the company sees itself in a position to offer automotive customers comprehensive systems consisting of software, computing and sensor hardware as well as connected actuator technology.

As a “mediator layer”, ZF’s middleware enables efficient communication of software functions to hardware components. It offers independence and compatibility to future-proof vehicle platforms.

ZF is underpinning this shift in development focus towards software with the establishment of a Global Software Center. The new business unit, headed by Nico Hartmann, Vice President, Software Solutions & Global Software Center, will start operations at the beginning of 2021. The Global Software Center will have the task of developing software systems for future architectures throughout the Group and making them available to the entire company. This will provide the company with a strong tool to coordinate and standardise new trends, technologies, methods, processes, tools and functions.

In the medium term, this will lead to uniform structures and a uniform development environment throughout the ZF Group. Software will be developed or adapted much faster through integrated collaboration with customers and partners to meet the requirements of future software-defined vehicles.

These simultaneous and interlinked hardware and software development processes at ZF enable innovative, integrated and industry-leading solutions. They are not only unique at the component level, but can also be extended to comprehensive and intelligent vehicle systems that create a unique user experience.

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