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Computing power for the mobility of tomorrow

ZF is gearing up for the world-famous IAA show. They explain the meaning behind their new motto, "Next generation mobility. Now" focusing on technology already available today for the next generation of vehicles. The company says its latest generation of the ZF ProAI supercomputer plays a key role as it offers customized computing power for virtually any vehicle platform and every level of automation.

Digitization, connectivity, autonomous driving without emissions: Mobility is redefining itself. This trend has been reinforced and accelerated by the current Covid19 crisis. As a result, the "waiting time" for tomorrow has been significantly shortened. The automotive future is already taking shape in manufacturers' model plans – driven by growth trends in the market interested in intelligent, electric, autonomous, safe and sustainable mobility.

ZF is aligning itself with this demand. "Our strategic goal is to provide technology for 'Next Generation Mobility'," explains Torsten Gollewski, Executive Vice President Autonomous Mobility Systems at ZF. "We already have all the necessary technologies for future vehicle and mobility concepts." This includes high-performance computers, software, vehicle sensors and actuators, and vehicle connectivity for mobility services.

The core of new E/E vehicle architectures is formed by high-performance computers, which can be used either as central, domain or zone controllers. This is where ZF comes in with its ZF ProAI supercomputer which the Group presents for the first time in Europe at the upcoming IAA. "Our ProAI covers an enormous range of possible application fields for virtually every type of vehicle and is suitable for all stages of automated or autonomous driving," explains Gollewski.

With a 66 percent increase in computing power, the new ZF ProAI consumes up to 70 percent less power.

The AI capabilities of the ZF ProAI are optimized for deep learning and are an important basis for further advanced safety functions. The computer provides GPU-driven 360° fusion of all available sensor data, including ambient measurement data from cameras, radars, LiDARs and audio patterns.

In addition, the new generation is even more compact and thus requires less installation space. Even taking into account the available cooling options – passive cooling, air cooling and liquid cooling depending on the desired performance – most ZF ProAI models come in the same standard size of 24x14x5 cm. In line with automotive industry requirements, the high-tech interior is designed for maximum resilience and reliability even under extreme conditions and offers the latest security mechanisms against cyber threats.

Thanks to its modular design, the supercomputer can be equipped with different "System-on-Chip" (SoC) variants, i.e. with processors from different manufacturers, depending on customer requirements. It can also be operated with software from ZF or third-party suppliers. Standardized connectors and the possibility to connect several ZF ProAI units with each other make it flexible for use and installation in any type of vehicle.

ZF's high-performance computer offers flexible computing power from 20 to 1000 teraOPS. That is up to 1000 trillion – or one quadrillion – computing operations per second. Together with the variety of cooling options available, automotive manufacturers can find a custom-fit solution for all their vehicle platforms, software applications, and E/E architectures – via a single ECU type. This increases efficiency and lowers overall costs.

ZF was able to win the first major orders for the ZF ProAI in both the passenger car and commercial vehicle segments and will produce the central controller in large-scale production from 2024.

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