Automotive Engineering - June 2021 - 31

Q&
ZF builds its computational-power assets
Even by industry norms, Martin Fischer has a lengthy job title. He
is a member of the board of management for ZF and his responsibilities
include electronics and ADAS, passive safety systems,
active safety systems North America Region and South America
Region corporate quality. In plain terms, Fischer is at the tip of
the spear for the industry's fifth-largest supplier's strategy to
address the explosive transformation to electronics- and software-defined
passenger and commercial vehicles. He recently
spoke with SAE editorial director Bill Visnic about ZF's new-generation
vehicle supercomputer and the auto sector's vexing
struggle to secure crucial semiconductor supplies.
What's the takeaway regarding the new
generation of ProAI, your central supercomputing
platform?
We're talking about serious level-definition
of the product. And what drove us
there really is two things: we see the
software-defined vehicle, we see the architectures
changing more to domain
and zone computers.
And at the same time, we ourselves
have high computational demands when
we think about our ADAS [automated
driver-assistance systems] and AD [automated
driving] systems. That made us
conclude we'd better define a computer
for that - and one of the attributes that
we laid out early in the work was that it
should be a scalable computer. Because
if you do a Level 2-plus ADAS system
and you go all the way up to a Level 4
system, there is quite some level of complexity
being added.
And then if you look at the market,
quite a few players need these computers.
From our new automotive customer
friends and startups to the OEMs, the
well-established ones, so we thought if
we make it modular and scalable, that's
going to help drive a business case
across the space.
It's all about really aggregating the
computational power rate; that's the
trend on these new architectures. Fewer
ECUs, more bundling of functionalities,
and then you start seeing that a betterperforming
computer makes sense. Let's
say where it's really starting from is from
the top end, ADAS and AD - that's where
we need heavy computation. But we have
started with a modular design where we
basically can exchange the 'core.' So, we
AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING
started off with Nvidia [chips] and have really powerful SoCs
[System on a Chip]. But we can take that out and plug in lessperforming
chips as well. That will then fulfill the lower needs of
some zone-controller applications, or the main domain applications
that need less computational efforts.
The global computer chip shortage probably has been the
auto industry's seminal story this year. The newest ProAI isn't
due to be in production until 2024; with the rollout of such a
compute-power-centric product, is the current chip-supply
situation a concern for you?
Yes - for this product and the general
trend. You can easily in the next five
years probably expect to double the
electronic contents in the vehicles. That's
an issue. We are small fish in the whole
semiconductor world, 5-10 percent or so
of TSMC [Taiwan Semiconductor
Manufacturing Company] but we are
growing. So, it is a concern in how sustainably
we can generate, create enough
capacity - and also secure our share in
that. If not, the next-generation
Playstations set us back and, oh well,
there are a couple hundred thousand
vehicles [that can't be built].
ZF's
Martin Fischer.
" We are small
fish in the whole
semiconductor
world, but we are
growing. "
Is it just a matter of saying to a chip
manufacturer, " Listen, we promise you a
certain amount of business, so we expect
a certain amount of service, " - or is
it more complicated?
I think that is one of the key and the basic
elements we have to go through. The
good news is that we are at the table for
that and there is a good common understanding
of that approach between the
OEMs, the Tier 1s and the semiconductor
makers. All of us are very busy and now
figuring out 2022, first of all. And that's
quite something, right? That means it's
an outlook of more than 18 months; there
has to be certain reliability and binding
commitments in that.
And there are still also the bigger
questions. How are we going to, in longer
terms, also secure the situation geopolitically.
Governments are now aware. Chips
are important for so many industries and
we will have to see how we deal with it
from Europe and from the U.S.
For the full interview text, see: https://www.
sae.org/news/2021/05/fischer-qna
June 2021 31
A
ZF
https://www.sae.org/news/2021/05/fischer-qna

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