ZF launches latest AI automotive supercomputer

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ZF has unveiled the next generation of its ZF ProAI system, which, according to Dr Holger Klein, ZF board member for the Asia-Pacific region is “currently the most flexible, scalable and powerful automotive-grade supercomputer in the world”.

Designed for the requirements of software-defined vehicles and their new electric/electronic architectures, ZF states that its artificial intelligence (AI) capable high-performance computer can serve as domain, zone or central controller. It is suitable for any vehicle type and for all levels of automated or autonomous driving: from Level 2 to Level 5. The system is set to go into production by 2024.

“Several significant orders for our high-performance computing platform confirm our vanguard position to drive vehicle intelligence,” noted Klein. “Offering high computing power, cutting-edge software solutions, intelligent sensors and smart actuators from a single source, ZF creates new possibilities for data-based business models for next-generation mobility.”

ZF notes that many aspects of ProAI have been upgraded. Apart from better computational performance with up to 66% more teraOPS, it simultaneously consumes up to 70% less power (3 teraOPS per watt on average) than its predecessor. Furthermore, its AI capabilities are optimized for deep learning processes, enhancing its ability to deliver advanced safety features: the board offers a 360° GPU-driven fusion of all available sensor data, including environmental measurement data from radars, lidars, cameras and audio patterns.

It also requires less installation space. Even considering the available cooling options – passive cooling, air cooling and liquid cooling depending on the desired performance – ZF says most models will come in the same 24 x 14 x 5cm standard housing.

The supercomputer’s modular setup means it can be equipped with system-on-chip (SoC) variants from different manufacturers to achieve the preferred customer solution. Likewise, it can operate ZF’s own software or that of other developers or third-party suppliers. Standardized connectors and the option to link more ZF ProAI units together make it flexible for use and installation in any type of vehicle.

ZF’s high-performance board offers the flexibility to achieve computing capability from 20 to 1,000 teraOPS. That is 1,000 trillion – or one quadrillion – computing operations per second. With the variety of available cooling options, OEMs now have a custom-fitted solution for all their vehicle platforms, software applications and E/E architectures through a single type of control unit. This increases efficiency and reduces costs. The system also provides a measurement data interface (MDI) for ProAI to forward the collected sensor data unaltered to a central storage system for development and testing purposes. This makes it much easier for developers to train artificial intelligence for autonomous driving.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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