Centralised architecture: Apps as driver assistant systems

September 23, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
An innovative approach from Siemens provides for a centralised, powerful computing resource in vehicles, replacing dozens of ECUs and control units distributed over the car. The benefit: Essential functions such as driver assistance systems could be implemented as an app and installed flexibly. Plus, the technology would allow for elegant, straightforward architectures instead of today's complex electronics jungle in cars.

The idea of the Siemens researchers in RACE project is to control al electronic functions within a car through one central computer. RACE stands for Robust and Reliant Automotive Computing Environment and aims at developing an architecture that would greatly simplify the complex interplay of today's safety, driver assistance and infotainment systems. In addition, this approach would enable vendors to retrofit new functions in a very simple way even after the car has been delivered to the customer. The RACE project has been launched about two years ago, now Siemens has presented some intermediate development results. The researchers are about to develop a virtual computing platform; the physical hardware is determined by the respective customer's requirements and depends on the computing power required as well as the number of I/O interfaces and processes.

The plug-and-play principle of RACE enables designers to expand the platform to adapt it to new requirements. Safety and security are integral part of the concept - unlike in today's distributed ECUs where these elements have to be implemented all anew. Applications can utilise these features but they are not obliged to do so. The system is also redundant: If one computer fails, another one takes over. Another benefit of the system is that due to its flexibility that it can be utilised even in small production series without higher costs.

Within the RACE project, the system is currently under development by Siemens Corporate Technology and a number of research partners, including TRW Automotive, AVL Software, the University of Stuttgart, Munich Technical University, RWTH university of Aachen and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security (Fraunhofer AISEC).

Though the principle could be applied also to conventional cars, the development currently aims at the design of electric vehicles, a Siemens spokesperson said. By December 2014, the researchers plan to implant their host computer plus communications networks and software into an electric delivery van from EV maker StreetScooter.