Continental Advances Server-Based Vehicle Architectures With Zone Control Units

Mobility Outlook Bureau
18 Apr 2024
03:17 PM
2 Min Read

The ZCUs are designed to simplify complex vehicle wiring, thereby reducing weight and ultimately decreasing CO2 emissions.

Continental Zone Control Units mobility outlook

Continental is pioneering advancements in the automotive sector with the launch of its Zone Control Units (ZCUs), a critical component in server-based vehicle architectures. These units, which serve as the middle tier between high-performance computers and the vehicle's electronic components, are set to fast track the software-defined vehicle landscape.

This new system consolidates what could be hundreds of individual control units into a streamlined architecture that enhances efficiency and functionality. Continental has reported receiving multiple orders from European and Asian automotive manufacturers, signalling strong market interest and the potential for broad implementation.

Key Features & Benefits Of Continental's ZCU

The ZCU operates by bundling all electronic and electrical connections within a local section of a vehicle, such as the front, rear, or sides, optimising the data paths between itself and electronic components like sensors and actuators. This consolidation results in a dramatic reduction of complexity and supports the vehicle's overall performance and maintenance capabilities.

Each ZCU is linked to a high-performance computer through a robust Ethernet connection. This setup supports critical features such as the separation of hardware and software, enhanced cybersecurity, and improved update capability. Additionally, the ZCU manages real-time functions and communication, and it provides decentralised energy supply with electrical protection up to 40 amps.

Strategic Implications For Automotive Technology

Jean-François Tarabbia, Head of the Architecture and Networking business area at Continental, emphasised the strategic importance of this development, stating, “With high-performance computers, we are pioneers in the top control tier of server-based vehicle architectures. With zone control units, we also offer a solution for the middle tier. Our platform-based and modular development approach enables us to start series production within just over a year of receiving an order. This is how we are bringing the software-defined vehicle to the road more speedily.”

The introduction of ZCUs marks a significant shift towards more service-oriented, software-driven vehicle architectures. By enabling the easy management of growing software complexity and standardising interfaces, these units facilitate better control and integration of vehicle systems. This architecture not only supports the current generation of 12-volt electrical systems but is also compatible with future 48-volt systems.

As vehicles become increasingly integrated into the Internet of Things (IoT), the role of streamlined, efficient electronic and electrical architectures becomes more critical. Continental's ZCUs represent a major step forward in managing and minimising this complexity. Dragos Bohotineanu, Head of ZCU product group, explains, “A ZCU is like a tailor-made workhorse and gateway in the vehicle. This new architecture considerably simplifies the wiring harness and thus saves weight. The clear division of tasks, the separation of hardware and software, and the standardisation of interfaces make it much easier to manage the growing complexity and the virtually exploding scope of software in the vehicle.”

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