Failsafe electronics for autonomous driving

Autonomous driving is an integral part of virtually all future mobility concepts. Since human intervention is not intended in the context of fully automated driving, the relevant sensors and electronic systems have to meet the very highest demands in terms of reliability: the system has to be able to respond to unforeseen events as well as remaining stable in the case of error or functional impairment – as caused by incorrect, delayed or missing information, if a component fails or if the energy supply is lost, for example.

Theoretically, all electronic components could be provided in duplicate: if one component were to fail, an identical one would be available to takes its place. However, this solution is neither economically nor technically feasible since it would take up too much installation space inside the car.

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Video: Failsafe electronics for autonomous driving

Researchers at Fraunhofer EMFT have joined forces with several industry partners to develop a clever alternative with the project AutoKonf – a redundant, generic control unit. If the control device for the steering or brakes fails, the redundant generic control unit takes over the function in question and is able to control the car safely. In order to ensure the redundant control unit is able to perform the tasks of both steering and brake control, the project has focused on developing electronic systems which allow dynamic alteration of the signal distribution and power supply, for example.

The Fraunhofer EMFT team is looking into the integration of switching capability in plugs and interface modules. Among other things, classic switch matrices and novel techniques are investigated which work within a very small installation space, in particular with regard to reliability. For this purpose, a thermal design is being developed for the necessary assembly and interconnection technology.

By the end of the project, the aim is to develop the effectiveness of the concept in defined test and failure cases: an error is injected into the new system while the stability control is active. Using a vehicle test bench, the project partner and coordinator Intedis will then verify whether and to what extent vehicle stability is still maintained.

© Intedis
Climate testing of an electronic assembly
© Fraunhofer EMFT / Bernd Müller
Climate testing of an electronic assembly
EDX analyzis at the SEM
© Fraunhofer EMFT / Bernd Müller
EDX analyzis at the SEM

The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; allocation from the Business Plan of the Energy and Climate Fund (EKF), reference: 16EMO0187).