R&D project develops open E/E architecture for future vehicles

R&D project develops open E/E architecture for future vehicles

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By Christoph Hammerschmidt

A project consortium of universities and companies wants to develop an open software and electronics architecture for the mobility of tomorrow. The focus is on the standardisation of interfaces and modularisation.

The goal and motivation of the AUTOtech.agil research and development project is to create an open architecture for the mobility system of the future, both for new and established vehicle and mobility concepts. The project consortium includes 17 chairs from nine universities, three SMEs and nine large companies. The project is led by the Institute of Automotive Engineering (ika) at RWTH Aachen University. In addition to the E/E architecture as such, the project participants also want to develop the associated tools and methods. The participants want to create a set of standard interfaces and components that not only reduce the complexity of the overall system, but also enable the multiple use of modules that have already been developed. In addition, the functional building blocks should be able to be updated and expanded via software updates in the various phases of their lifetime – research, development, production and, above all, in the utilisation phase. This modular principle should simplify the development of numerous different vehicles.

Extension to the entire transport system planned

Those who are familiar with these specifications may remember the predecessor project UNICARagil: the architecture for driverless vehicles researched and developed within the framework of that project forms a basis for this. It also served as orientation for the legislation and is reflected in the boundary conditions that were set with the law on autonomous driving that came into force in Germany in July 2021. In the follow-up project AUTOtech.agil, the consortium, which has grown, is now extending this architecture to the entire traffic system, particularly in the areas of software and tools for software development. Infrastructure-based sensor technology and cooperative concepts with control rooms and clouds are also being researched in depth. The project focuses on three applications as examples to demonstrate the concepts and the added social value:

  • Mobility for people with age or illness-related performance limitations;
  • The sustainable transport of critical goods such as medicines;
  • A “guardian angel function” for more safety of vulnerable road users, e.g. those travelling on foot or by bicycle.

The modular architecture of agilely updatable and expandable software components with standardised interfaces offers a sustainable option to convert individual domains or vehicle components up to the entire functionality of a mobility system to a service-oriented architecture at a certain point in time. This means that the architecture does not have to unite all the complex functions of a specific vehicle, as has been the case up to now, but that these can be put together accordingly, as with a construction kit. In addition, important additions to today’s mobility system, such as roadside units (RSU), control rooms and control centres, as well as collective and cooperative cloud functions, will be included in the architecture, which can be updated at runtime.

Software architecture as a modular system

In presenting the project, Professor Lutz Eckstein of RWTH Aachen University focused on the opportunities to use it to design new mobility and transport concepts. “Through this, we want to actively contribute to the transformation of today’s automotive industry and create a valuable basis for new companies that shape future mobility together with established companies,” Eckstein said. “In AUTOtech.agil, we are building on the cooperation in the UNICARagil project and have been able to expand our consortium to include other well-known partners. This gives us the unique opportunity to jointly lay a foundation stone for the architecture of future mobility.”

Core innovations:

In the new project, the Automotive Service-oriented Software Architecturre (ASOA) developed in the UNICARagil project is to be extended beyond the system boundary of the vehicle. This should enable the distribution of intelligence through the orchestration of services inside and outside the vehicle. Off-vehicle components include infrastructure-based sensors such as roadside units (RSU) as well as control rooms, control centres and clouds.

ASOA is being further developed in such a way that it can also be integrated into existing industrial platforms such as Autosar Adaptive and ROS 2.

In combination with an over-the-air update capability, the detection, diagnosis and prediction of errors allows short innovation cycles through agile updates and upgrades. According to the scientists’ ideas, the heterogeneous overall system should be able to be kept at a safe level at all times.

The Universal Automotive Bus (UAB), as a universal, scalable interface suitable for real-time computing, increases interoperability and reduces the complexity of system integration.

Learning networked traffic intelligence from a network of control centres and control rooms makes it possible to increase the safety and efficiency of road traffic. For this purpose, it can draw on a digital twin, i.e. a live image of the current traffic. Through this networking, the decision-making process taking place in automated vehicles can be expanded to include cooperative forms of decision-making.

The robust vehicle automation based on a modular construction kit of resilient function modules takes uncertainties into account in the form of quality vectors along the entire effective chain – from the perception of the environment to probabilistic trajectory planning and control.

The project-wide documentation of safety activities in the interaction of all components and modules serves the description of uncertainties and the dialogue about achievable safety levels. A modular homologation process should enable software updates during operation.

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An automotive public key infrastructure ensures secure data exchange. Based on the resilient, probabilistic functional modules for vehicle automation, a monitoring framework for holistic self-awareness using quality assessment will be created and a capability assessment at overall system level will be enabled.

Successful achievement of the project goal is only possible through interdisciplinary cooperation between leading partners from research and industry in the field of automated and linked driving. In particular, extensive preliminary work such as prototypically implemented concepts and built hardware prototypes flow from the UNICARagil project, in which many of the partners were already involved. In order to be able to expand the preliminary work done within the framework of UNICARagil and transfer it to industrial application, the consortium at that time was expanded to include companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the automotive industry. These partners bring numerous other competences to the project, especially from industrial practice.

Among the partners coordinating this development work are renowned institutes and companies such as RWTH Aachen University, the Technical Universities of Braunschweig, Darmstadt and Munich as well as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. On the industry side, Mercedes Benz, Bosch, Valeo, Vitesco and ZF Friedrichshafen and more are involved.

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