Continental, Infineon team for vehicle Zone Control computer

Continental, Infineon team for vehicle Zone Control computer

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By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Together with Infineon, the automotive supplier Continental wants to drive forward the development of server-based vehicle architectures. The goal is to consolidate the numerous ECUs scattered throughout the vehicle into a few, but powerful Zone Control Units (ZCUs).

Continental plans to use Infineon’s Aurix TC4 microcontroller for its ZCU platform. Thanks to the RRAM memory technology implemented in the Aurix TC4, the vehicle software can be accessed immediately after start-up, eliminating the need to load software code from slow permanent flash memories. Functions such as parking assistance, climate control, heating and suspension are thus ready within fractions of a second when the vehicle is started. With its platform approach, Continental supports the different requirements of car manufacturers. They can tailor their architecture by individually configuring the number of HPCs and ZCUs as well as their interaction and arrangement in the vehicle.

“The growing variety of functions in the vehicle requires more and more computing power and increasingly complex software applications,” says Gilles Mabire, CTO Continental Automotive. “The software-defined vehicle is made possible at all by Continental’s new architecture. The cooperation with Infineon is now an essential step to quickly realise this development.” Continental’s platform strategy makes it possible to use proven application software in new vehicle models. This reduces the validation effort considerably and new functionalities can be brought into series production more quickly, Mabire added.

RRAM deployed for the first time in cars

The third generation of Infineon’s Aurix microcontroller family, TC4x, offers the same scalability in terms of performance, memory and package variants as the previous generations Aurix TC2x and TC3x. Aurix TC4x was designed, among other things, for use in ZCU and HPC. Other focus applications of the Aurix are radar, chassis & safety and powertrain/electrification.

A key element of the new microcontroller series is the RRAM (Resistive Random Access Memory) memory technology used by Infineon. This is already being used successfully in chip cards, for example for cashless payments and secure authentication. Now, for the first time, RRAM technology is being used in the automotive sector. “The cooperation with Continental makes it possible to bring RRAM technology to the automobile,” says Peter Schiefer, President of the Automotive Division at Infineon. “In this context, the Aurix TC4x microcontroller family is an important building block for the next generation of E/E architectures and can make the decisive difference when it comes to efficiency, safety and comfort in future vehicle generations.”

Zone Control Units: crucial for tomorrow’s mobility

The use of high-performance zone control units is the next crucial step towards the software-defined vehicle. An essential first step for Continental was the development and delivery of an HPC high-performance computer for Volkswagen’s ID.3 and ID.4 electric vehicle models. The Zone Control Unit ECU platform to be developed as part of the cooperation with Infineon forms the middle level of the electrical/electronic architecture between the server level (HPC) and the basic level with numerous sensors and actuators.

With the ZCU, Continental sees itself in a position to offer all essential components of the architecture for software-defined vehicles from a single source. “The new platform is scalable and modular in terms of performance and interfaces. In this way, we offer vehicle manufacturers maximum flexibility in the design of vehicle architectures,” says Jean-Francois Tarabbia, head of the Architecture and Networking business unit at Continental.

Aurix with post-quantum security

In the E/E architecture of the future, one Zone Control Unit each is to bundle all electronic and electrical connections in a local sub-area of the vehicle. For example, ZCUs will take over all control, data and communication management tasks in the front right, front left and rear areas of the vehicle. The fact that the software components are bundled centrally increases cyber security and updateability. With the Aurix TC4x product family, the focus was on state-of-the-art cyber security functions developed according to the ISO/SAE 21434-certified procedure. In doing so, the TC4x offers post-quantum security. This already strengthens protection against quantum computer attacks, which pose a threat to cryptographic methods currently in use.

In the Zone Control Units, data flows from different domains of the vehicle merge. The data is processed and passed on to the HPCs as the highest control level via secure Ethernet connections. Conversely, the Zone Control Units act as a coordination point for the execution of commands from the server level.

With its holistic “functional safety” concept, the Aurix TC4x family meets the highest requirements for functional safety up to ASIL D, according to the ISO26262 standard. In addition, the Aurix TC4x family includes routing accelerators to reduce the load on Ethernet and CAN communication, as well as the latest communication functions such as 5 Gbit/s ETH, PCIe, 10 Base-T1-S and CAN-XL. Through these features, Aurix TC4x enables the next generation of software-defined vehicles and new E/E architectures.

“Our new vehicle architecture of a few powerful Zone Control Units and High Perfomance Computers greatly simplifies the wiring harness. This saves weight and energy,” says Tarabbia. “The division of tasks in the tidy vehicle electronics, the separation of hardware and software and the necessary standardisation of interfaces also make it much easier to manage the growing complexity and the virtually exploding volume of software in the vehicle.”

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