Mobility of the future

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Mobility of the future - European-wide research project develops novel sensor systems for autonomous driving and flying.

Robot cars or flight taxis for the transport of people and goods - efficient, energy-saving, unmanned. A large-scale research project is developing novel sensor systems that will soon make the future vision of autonomous driving and flying a reality. Compared to today's technology, innovative micro-electrics could reduce energy consumption by around 90 percent. The European-wide project, which consists of 27 partners from research and industry, is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), with approximately 48 million euros. The German consortium including, the sensor technology department of the University of Paderborn, consists of 14 organizations and is headed by Robert Bosch GmbH.

FD-SOI technology for faster switching

The mobility of the future requires powerful sensors and control systems, both for autonomous flying and for autonomous driving. "OCEAN12" is the title of the publically funded project, which is to develop practical technologies by the end of 2021. The abbreviation stands for "Opportunity to Carry European Autonomous driving further with FDSOI technology up to 12nm node". Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hilleringmann, head of the sensor technology department at the University of Paderborn, explains what is behind it: “The so-called FD-SOI technology (Fully Depleted Silicon-on-Insulator) enables the production of a special type of field effect transistor, which mean switching times are significantly shorter and therefore leakage currents can be reduced. This also significantly improves the energy balance of the individual transistors. Another positive effect is associated with the lower sensitivity to ionizing radiation. Thus, optimizing the reliability of digital storage units”.

Environmental data is processed

Together, the project partners are developing various components that not only capture the environmental data of vehicles and aircraft but can also process them in a very specific way. These include environmental sensors such as cameras or radar sensors and microprocessors. The data is later converted into control commands for downstream components such as steering in a car or the drive control in aircraft.

At the University of Paderborn, the scientists around Hilleringmann developed in collaboration with Dr. Christian Hedayat, department head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano-systems (ENAS), a highly efficient tool for so-called mixed-signal systems, that process both analog and digital signals. The result is a tool that creates computer-aided designs of electronic systems and allows for comprehensive characterization of the circuits based on FD-SOI technology. “Modelling and simulation methods mean that within a short time, the most important properties of the mixed-signal core circuits for frequency-synthesis or data recovery can be fully characterized. This ultimately ensures a robust system design,” says Hilleringmann.

Maximum energy efficiency.

As a manufacturing approach for semiconductors, FD-SOI technology is the key to energy efficiency: An additional insulation layer in the chip reduces so-called leakage currents, for example, those that flow away from the actual line. Hilleringmann comments, "This leads to a significant reduction in power consumption and at the same time to higher computing speeds,". Furthermore, "The aim of the project is that new sensor systems for future mobility concepts should consume up to 90 percent less than today," says Dr. Tilman Glökler from Bosch, coordinator of the German OCEAN12 consortium. Corresponding sensor systems are to be integrated onto a so-called SoC (System on Chip). Single-board computers, where almost all the functions of a programmable system can be implemented onto a chip, also rely on a comparable process. This therefore allows for especially small sensor systems.

Experts from the fields of semiconductor technology, electronics, aviation, and automotive technology are working together on the project. In addition to Bosch and the University of Paderborn, other German participants involved in OCEAN 12 include - AED Engineering GmbH, Airbus Defence and Space GmbH, Audi AG, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Fraunhofer EMFT, Fraunhofer IIS, Fraunhofer IPMS, Globalfoundries, Unity Semiconductor GmbH, MunEDA GmbH, the Technical University Dresden and the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich. The total expenditure is around 103 million euros.


Nina Reckendorf, Press and Communication Unit

Foto (Universität Paderborn, Johannes Pauly): Bei einem großangelegten Forschungsvorhaben werden neuartige Sensorsysteme entwickelt, die die Zukunftsvision vom autonomen Fahren und Fliegen bald Realität werden lassen sollen.