High-performance chips for autonomous mining applications

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With each development step toward autonomous driving, ever larger data volumes need to be processed quickly to enable vehicles to react to emerging situations. Austria-abased PCB and substrate specialist AT&S says it is developing a robust and resilient interconnect concept for a high-performance computer chip to meet these demands. The first application for the system will be an autonomous mining vehicle.

Electronics in particular are subject to significant stress in the mining environment, thanks to high temperatures, dust humidity and impacts, which can have a critical impact on their functionality. Finding solutions to these challenges is the goal of the so-called CHARM (Challenging Environments Tolerant Smart Systems for IoT and AI) research project, in which AT&S is involved.

Hannes Stahr, group technology manager at AT&S, explained, “Together with companies and research institutions from 10 different countries, we are working on the development of powerful computer modules which could be used in fully autonomous mining vehicles in the future. AT&S’s contribution is the development of a robust and resilient interconnect concept for a high-performance computer chip.”

During the concept development phase, a measurement chip is used to check and validate system stability and reliability. In a later phase, this chip is replaced by a high-performance processor, which is embedded in a substrate – the translator between the printed circuit board and the nanostructures of the microchip – thus enabling both miniaturization and high data processing speeds at the same time.

Though the development work of this project focuses on mining applications, the results gathered can also be used in other segments. “Of course we can also apply the learnings from this project to areas of autonomous driving for cars and trucks,” noted Stahr.

The CHARM project, which is to take place over three years, is implemented as part of the ECSEL (Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership) initiative, a public-private partnership initiated by the EU to pursue the goal to drive innovation for electronic components and systems and to improve Europe’s competitiveness in the era of the digital economy.

The project features 37 partners from 10 European countries and a total budget of €29m (US$34.5m). It is co-financed via ECSEL, EU Horizon 2020, national funding agencies of the participating countries and the consortium partners. The partners come from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland.

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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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