Domain controllers vs multiple ECUs: concept gains traction, says TTTech

January 31, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Audi attracted much attention at the recent Consumer Electronics Show when it presented the prototype of a domain controller that combines the functionality of multiple driver assistance systems. The idea of replacing many ECUs scattered across the vehicle has long been discussed as a measure to reduce complexity in the car. The concept has been pushed mainly by BMW - but in this case, the implementation has been done somewhere else.

The technology of this high-performance computer is largely a contribution of Austrian technology company TTTech, said Stefan Poledna, member of TTTech's executive board, in an interview with EE Times Europe. The design is one of the results of a strategic partnership with Audi and includes TTTech's 'Deterministic Ethernet'. According to Audi E/E development manager Rick Hudy, the platform has a higher performance than all ECUs of Audi's current A4 mid-size model combined.

"We developed the hardware for this domain controller", said Poledna. The TTTech manager added that sooner or later the concept of domain controllers which combine the functionality of several ECUs and will prevail.

While TTTech has a long-lasting strategic partnership in place with Audi, the company is not exclusively tied to the carmaker. "We have developed a safety ECU for Volvo, and our software runs on ECUs from Bosch, Continental, Delphi, Peugeot and others", Poledna said, adding that the company's Deterministic Ethernet is also used in aviation and industrial designs.  NXP makes use of TTTech's technology in its recently announced automotive Ethernet switch chips.

The current enthusiasm for Ethernet in the automotive industry "is good for us", Poledna said, though this technology was initiated by a group of companies including Freescale, Continental, and Broadcom. He pointed out that the Ethernet AVB (Audio-Video Bridging) working group has been renamed to Ethernet TSN working group, with TSN standing for time-sensitive networking, and hinting to deployment in safety-relevant real-time applications. "AVB is a protocol designed for streaming videos and audio signals; TSN enhances this concept and makes it usable for time-critical applications", Poledna said. He said his company has solutions ready that support standard Ethernet traffic, AVB traffic and, in addition, time-triggered data traffic. "We are deeply convinced that this is the future trend". This technology supports the requirements of audio and video streams with minimum signal jitter as well as stringent real-time requirements for control systems - plus safety