Porsche mulls central chassis control computer

February 17, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
When it comes to features essential for a sports car such as road holding and transversal stability, Porsche certainly has achieved some performance. A good deal of Porsche's outperformance over standard vehicles is owed to intelligent mechatronic elements in the chassis such as adaptive air suspension of Dynamic Chassis Control. To tap additional potential it might be necessary to implement an overall chassis computer that coordinates all these distributed intelligent devices.

At the Euroforum Congress on Automotive Electronics which took place recently in Munich, Porsche top designer Peter Schaefer who oversees undercarriage design at the vehicle manufacturer reported on the contribution of each single intelligent chassis control element to the overall vehicle performance. For instance, the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) helps to increase the maximum transversal acceleration. Currently, Porsche designers are developing something called dynamic aggregate suspension - if ancillary aggregates could be automatically relocated by a few millimeters during situations involving ransversal acceleration, the designers might be able to squeeze out another few percents of performance, said Schaefer.

In the long term however, improvements could be achieved more easily if the distributed chassis control systems would be interlocked and their activity be coordinated by some kind of central chassis computer. "The next dimension comes from the functional interconnect of the systems," Schaefer said. "It is important that the systems mutually support their activities".

This will pose new challenges and add a new level of complexity with respect to the data bus systems, Schaefer said. In this context, Porsche will use the Flexray data bus to interconnect the systems involved. Superordinated control systems require new approaches, since they impose higher requirements to coordination and collaboration of the systems. "The challenge is that the control systems have to collaborate despite their completely different hardware and software architecture", Schaefer explained. "Will there be a master controller, a central brain?" he asked and added "this is a large, wide-open area."

Schaefer admitted that the idea of an "integrated chassis control" is far from being entirely new. In any case, the development of such a chassis control computer would require intensive collaboration between car manufacturer and suppliers. While only the OEM could define the characteristics of such an entity, the actual design would have to be done at the tier ones. "I think no OEM prides itself of being an ECU developer. This will