Germany-based chipmaker Infineon will be collaboraing with Tier-1 supplier Continental in the development of server-based vehicle architecture, according to an announcement made on March 13.
The goal of the cooperation is to come up with an organized and efficient electrics/electronics (E/E) architecture with central high-performanc computers (HPC) combined with a few powerful Zone Control Units (ZCU), replacing the hundreds of individual control units currently deployed in EVs. Infineon believes that the adoption of powerful ZCUs is the next decisive step towards a software-defined vehicle.
The rise of Zone Control Units (ZCU)
In the E/E architecture of the future, a zone control unit bundles all electronic and electrical connections in a local section of the vehicle. After data streams from different vehicle domains merge in the ZCUs, they will be processed and passed on to the HPCs via secure Ethernet connections.
Currently, Continental uses Infineon's AURIX TC4x microcontroller family for its ZCU platform. Based on 28nm process, AURIX TC4 was designed for ZCU and HPC applications, focusing on radar, chassis and safety and powertrain/electrofication. As the third generation of the AURIX microcontroller family, TC4x offers the same scalability in terms of performance, memory and housing variants when compared to its precedors, AURIX TC2x and TC3x.
According to Infineon, the first samples of the new AURIX TC4 family of microcontrollers are now at lead customers. The start of production is scheduled for the second half of 2024.
"With our new architecture solution, we are making the vehicle fit for the future," says Gilles Mabire, CTO Continental Automotive. "The growing variety of vehicle functions requires more and more computing power and increasingly complex software applications. Continental's new architecture is paving the way for the software-defined vehicle. The cooperation with Infineon is an essential step in realizing this development quickly for our customers."
In terms of safety, bundling the software components centrally also increase cybersecurity and updatability. According to Infineon, the AURIX TC4x product family puts a focus on state-of-the-art cybersecurity functions, developed according to the ISO/SAE 21434-certified process. Bracing for the quantum era, the AURIX TC4x family also supports post-quantum processes, strengthening protection against quantum computer attacks.
PRAM used for the first time in the auto sector
Infineon indicates that a key element of the microcontroller series is the Resistive Random Access Memory (PRAM) - used for the first time in the automotive sector. The inclusion of PRAM technology allows the vehicle software to be on standby, and when a vehicle is started, functions like parking assistance, air conditioning, heating and suspension are available within fractions of a second. In addition, it enables significantly faster and more secure Over-the-air updates of software components.
According to Peter Schiefer, President of Infineon's Automotive Division, the cooperation with Continental makes it possible to bring RRAM technology into automobiles, and the AURIX TC4x microcontroller family is an important building block for the next generation of E/E architectures.
Jean-Francois Tarabbia, Head of the Business Unit Architecture and Networking at Continental, indicates that the new platform is scalable as well as modular in terms of performance and interfaces. Doing so will offer maximum flexibility to automobile manufacturers for designing vehicle architecture. The modular nature will also enable the integration of third-party hardware and software cost-effectively.
Previously, Infineon forecast that approxinately 20% of the automotives avaliable in 2027 will already have adopted zonal architecture. The figure may reach up to 40-50% towards the end of the decade.