Delphi selected to build Audi’s autopilot computer

March 31, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automated driving is ante portas – but how will the computers look like that steer the vehicles through the evening rush hour and across the high-speed autobahn? Audi now introduced the electronic brain of future self-driving cars.

The zFAS – German for zentrales Fahrerassistenzsteuergerät or “central driver assistant controller” will be gradually introduced in Audi’s model range, starting within the next two years. The contract to manufacture the high-performance computing platform has been awarded to supplier Delphi who also was involved in the development. We can assume that Delphi’s current project of sending a self-driving vehicle across the United States from San Francisco to New York is inspired by the company’s development work for the zFAS – all the more so as the vehicle used for this cross-country trip is an Audi.

Nevertheless, Delphi was not the only company involved in the zFAS development – also partners like TTTech (the real-time networking company who recently received a major funding from Audi and also from Infineon), Mobileye (expertise in signal camera processing) and high-performance microprocessor manufacturer nVidia played an important part.

The zFAS is the vehicle’s sensor data hub. Radar, lidar, ultrasound and camera data are processed to create a complete model of the vehicle’s surroundings in real-time. The findings computed are then made available to all driver assistance systems distributed around the vehicle. Its paramount significance for processing the sensor signals makes it the central hub for all functions of piloted driving, Audi says.

Hitherto the driver assistance systems have mostly be managed by physically separated electronic control units. Audi claims to be the first carmaker to implement this function as a central domain architecture, combining all related functions, sensors, electronics hardware and software architecture in one unit that follows a holistic concept. Safety aspects have been in the focus of the concept, Audi assures without elaborating.

The platform has the size of a tablet computer. Processing the data is split between Mobileye’s EyeQ3 microprocessor and the Tegra K1 from nVidia. With these processors, the performance of the platform equals the combined computing power of all ECUs of a state-of-the-art mid-sized car, Audi says. The modular approach