Maximum Computing Power and Flexibility with AI-Capable Supercomputer ZF ProAI

ZF launched the newest model of its automotive supercomputer ZF ProAI right before the start of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The ZF ProAI RoboThink central control unit offers the maximum performance of its kind in the industry. Vehicle manufacturers and mobility service providers additionally profit from the system’s scalability and modularity. The present four models in the ZF ProAI product series can be ideally configured for any application—from a standard ADAS function to totally autonomous cars, industrial applications, and commercial vehicles.

Performance and flexibility breakthrough: ZF ProAI RoboThink, the latest model from the ZF ProAI central computer product family. (Image Credit: ZF)

Customers can also state their preferred software architecture—a real breakthrough, particularly for Mobility-as-a-Service applications. In the advent of booming services such as ride hailing, ZF also introduced its own software stack for new mobility concepts at the CES. This stack along with the newest ZF ProAI and the company’s all-inclusive sensor set signify a fully integrated system for driverless vehicles that can be easily embraced by the new players in the field of mobility services.

NVIDIA DRIVE Autopilot premieres on ZF ProAI

The flexibility and power of ZF’s ProAI also convinced NVIDIA to name ZF one of their chosen partners for the promotion of their new Level2+ NVIDIA DRIVE AutoPilot. Since ZF’s new product’s volume production begins within the following 12 months, it is the only automotive grade AI capable supercomputer that can match NIVIDIA’s preferred timeline for the introduction of their DRIVE AutoPilot from the beginning.

We are taking advantage of the fact that currently only ZF offers a supercomputer that is ready for volume production. Our open, flexible, modular and scalable ZF ProAI product family allows for just the right configuration of any application—for a variety of industries, and across all levels of automated driving.

Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO, ZF.

We’re thrilled with the results of our collaboration with ZF. Their agility and system expertise has resulted in the incredibly rapid development of the ProAI platform enabling L2+ through L4/L5 robotaxi vehicles, leveraging NVIDIA’s DRIVE Xavier processors and DRIVE software. ZF is now able to deliver to car makers advanced L2+ self-driving solutions for production starting in 2020 and the ability to quickly scale to higher levels of autonomy.

Rob Csongor, Vice President of Autonomous Machines, NVIDIA.

ZF ProAI is a powerful alternative to closed systems

Greater processing power and artificial intelligence are key prerequisites for autonomous driving functions from Level 4 and higher. A high-performance processing unit is vital to examining 360-degree environmental surroundings while checking the vehicle interior and position of the occupants to help improve safety and vehicle control. The mobility sector can currently benefit from the world’s most robust central processing unit in the automotive field: the ZF ProAI RoboThink is a totally new design from ZF. This newest generation in the ZF ProAI product series is provided with its own graphics processor, offers a total computing performance of over 150 teraOPS (the equivalent of 150 trillion calculation operations per second), and can be modularly integrated with up to four units, matching to a total performance of 600 teraOPS.

The unique selling proposition of the AI-capable ZF ProAI RoboThink is its modular hardware concept and open software architecture. Our aim is to provide the widest possible range of functions in the field of autonomous driving.

Torsten Gollewski, Head of ZF Advanced Engineering and General Manager of Zukunft Ventures GmbH.

With four models, ZF can cover almost the whole range of possible application circumstances and use cases. The ZF ProAI Gen1 is an economical entry-level model that matches with nearly all NCAP 2022 standards. The ZF ProAI Gen2 has adequate computing potential to enable partially and extremely automated Level 2 and Level 3 driving. The next stage up, the ZF ProAI Gen3, offers wide modularity and can incorporate various chips on up to three performance boards. This should deliver sufficient computing power for real-time processing of the data necessary for automated driving up to Level 4. The newest model, the ZF ProAI RoboThink—with its own graphics processor and scalable computing power—is the most robust high-end solution and is ideally matched for autonomous driving applications from Level 4 and above.

The ZF ProAI product series provides an open platform for the tailored integration of software algorithms—spanning conventional functions as well as AI algorithms. Furthermore, they support different operating systems typical in the automotive field, for example. AutoSAR, Adaptive AutoSAR, or QNX and will add more platforms as they are created. The successful collaboration with NVIDIA continues with the ZF ProAI RoboThink—however ZF also gives customers the option of fitting the ZF ProAI with processors from other manufacturers. A current example is ZF’s new collaboration with Xilinx, a leader in adaptive and intelligent computing. ZF is combing Xilinx’s Multi-Processor System-on-Chip (MPSoC)  platform for data aggregation, pre-processing, and distribution to enable the flexibility and scalability necessary for different sensor and automated driving feature sets, while also delivering low latency and high-efficiency artificial intelligence computer acceleration.

This method is unique compared to other commercial systems which use a fixed combination of software and hardware architecture—a solution which can potentially restrict functionality and add extra cost.

ZF ProAI accelerates Mobility-as-a-Service

Robo-taxis and autonomous people or cargo-movers are hugely fast-tracking the development of central control units with much higher computing power. This is because robust domain computers used in Mobility-as-a-Service applications not only handle the complex calculation of the surroundings based on a fusion of radar, camera, and LIDAR data, but they also combine user data via the Cloud, payment systems and above all ideal route planning and implementation. Complex algorithms calculate these from the mobility and transport necessities of people or goods and can compare them in real time with the present traffic situation.

The computing power of central computers in robo-taxis and autonomous people or cargo-movers will be significantly higher than for automated-driving passenger cars. The demand from ride-hailing service providers for even more computing power has arisen much sooner than predicted. Today, the autonomous-driving market is being driven more by new mobility service providers than by established vehicle manufacturers.

Torsten Gollewski, Head of ZF Advanced Engineering and General Manager of Zukunft Ventures GmbH.

Based on the use case, the ZF ProAI product series offers computing power that delivers an optimal platform for the fusion of sensor data from LIDAR cameras, and radar systems. The people and cargo mover which ZF will unveil in volume production this year in a joint venture with e.GO Mobile AG will also employ ZF ProAI for its automated driving functions and networking.

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