Future 2021: Computer scientists develop a nervous system for cars

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Computer scientists develop a nervous system for cars

Future 2021: Computer scientists develop a nervous system for cars-computer

The computer science professor Franz Korf is in a laboratory at the HAW-Hamburg (University of Applied Sciences) in an experimental setup. Korf deals with system and ETime programming for intelligent car controls.

Source: dpa / hei bra

Countless functions are wired together in cars. The devices are slowly reaching their technical limits. One possible solution: the transmission form Ethernet. But the technology harbors dangers.

W.How we will move around in vehicles in the future is well known in science fiction films: Cars roll like a fleet of spaceships over flashing lanes. An on-board computer guides you to the desired destination via an autopilot, accidents are a thing of the past – thanks to built-in protective shields, thanks to which the cars automatically evade.

Cars are already parking without human intervention, sensors on the windshield warn against driving too fast, cameras scan the area for hazards.

This is made possible by control units that are like regulators for the individual electronic components and communicate with one another inside the car. Several thousand interfaces are built into modern cars – the demands on them are constantly increasing.

"More and more functions are increasingly overwhelming the vehicle networks," says Franz Korf, computer scientist at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. It is becoming apparent that the conventional lines required to exchange information will soon reach their limits.

Research Ministry supports the project

In a research project, Korf is developing an intelligent wiring system architecture for the car – which could be compared to a new type of nervous system for vehicles. The goal: A single, fast Ethernet cable should replace the almost unmanageable number of small cables in order to master the confusion of electronic languages ​​- and to pave the way for larger data packets.

“Data packets have to be transferred between devices at the right time. If the reversing camera reacts for a split second later, it could be that I collide with a bike, ”says Korf.

Ethernet has long been used in everyday life and connects the computer with the printer via so-called switches in offices. The technology researched by Korf is to be installed in series production in luxury sedans by 2021.

The Federal Ministry of Research is supporting the three-year project, which started in autumn, with 310,000 euros. The federal government welcomes the development of "powerful and intelligent vehicle electronics", announced the ministry.

The shortest route to the recipient

With his research associate Till Steinbach, Korf is researching a machine that at first glance looks like a simulator for car racing: a steering wheel is set up in front of a PC screen, and a headlight comes on above a display case full of computer circuit boards.

In addition, an axis moves back and forth at the push of a button. Inside, the computer simultaneously tests whether the digital nervous system is correctly transmitting the signals to the components via the Ethernet cable, says Steinbach.

The difference: Until now, all information was first collected in a kind of central brain in the middle of the car and only then distributed to the components, explains Steinbach on the screen. "But because not all of the data is needed in the middle, today’s system is quite inefficient."

With Ethernet, data packets should take the shortest route from the sender to the recipient without having to pass through this central post office, explains Korf. “The Ethernet cable is 200 times faster than conventional small bus cables. In the short or long term, car manufacturers will be able to save costs with Ethernet because fewer cables are required, ”says Steinbach.

Hackers can gain access to the system

The research project at the HAW is of course not the only collaboration between the automotive industry and computer scientists. For example, scientists and German car makers worked together in "Safe Intelligent Mobility – Test Field Germany" (SIM-TD) – a project in which, according to the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), tests were carried out over several years in the greater Frankfurt area to determine whether transmitter masts were on the roadside that can warn drivers quickly and reliably of current traffic hazards over long distances.

The Hamburg residents receive support from several project partners – the Institute for Computer Science OFFIS at the University of Oldenburg, the research and development laboratory C-LAB in Paderborn, and the Ingenieurgesellschaft Auto und Verkehr (IAV). Based on the research results, the company will design a prototype that will be assembled with the new Ethernet technology in the coming spring.

For the IAV engineers, the work of Korf’s team is of great interest to find out how message types would get along and where there are still delays in transmission, says Rene Rollig, Senior Project Manager at IAV.

However, the new technology also harbors dangers: “The previous bus systems are only known to a relatively small number of developers. In contrast, Ethernet has been the standard par excellence for communication between computers and servers since the 1980s and is therefore also known to hackers, "says Bernd Klusmann from the Bitkom industry association.

In the worst case, they could gain access to the digital nervous system via a radio network – and thus gain partial control of the car. "If the vehicle is in a parking lot, criminals could manipulate important functions," explains Klusmann. It is therefore important to also install security systems such as firewalls in cars.

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