Mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery-electric drive, permanent internet connection, sensor-supported 360-degree environment monitoring, and safety-relevant assistance functions are just a small selection of what is now and soon will be “docking” to automotive on-board networks. On the one hand, this is a great opportunity for drivers, who can now supplement their own personal digital revolution (smartphone) with the benefits of digitization in their cars. On the other hand, it presents a huge challenge for wiring system specialists like us, as we deal with an extreme growth in data traffic and have to map an almost impenetrable variety of functions and variants into the wiring system.

Given the dimensions of this growth, one thing is clear: current wiring systems can’t handle it. This is not simply my personal opinion; it is based on facts. Intedis – a joint venture between wiring system specialist LEONI and electronics specialist Hella – has conducted a study in which 34 wiring system architectures (from real vehicles as well as pre-development projects and concept studies) were thoroughly analyzed in terms of their viability for future use. This study and its results will be virtually presented in detail at the Wiring Systems Conference (Landshut) on September 22, 2020 and the 8th International Conference on Automotive Wire Harness and Electronic Distribution Systems (Ludwigsburg) on September 30, 2020.

 

Countering complexity with new ideas

The first insight was that approximately half of the wiring systems did not meet future requirements for robust power supply, fault tolerance, and practical functionality. The second insight was that the analyzed architectures can be divided into three categories.

The first category is a minimum-risk approach, using a successive expansion of existing architectures. Because of the enormous need for expansion, this approach will probably end up in “overkill,” as on-board networks become too complex, too expensive, and too heavy.
The second approach involves moderate integration and allocation of functions in larger ECUs. This reduces the number of ECUs and thus the complexity of the wiring system, which seems more practical.
The third approach is more disruptive. It consists of a completely new architecture, with a few large central computers into which most of the functions for data and power distribution are integrated. In addition, smaller zone controllers regulate data traffic and energy management in the vehicle periphery. Such a concept is probably the best way out of the complexity trap.

Functions of energy management components in different architectures

Know-how leads to the goal

The goal (reaching the third approach via the intermediate second approach) is clearly defined, but how does one get there? This will require the know-how that LEONI has acquired over many decades of developing wiring systems: not only knowledge of wiring system architectures, but also electronics expertise and knowing at what point in the wiring system architecture and in what form electronic components can provide the best benefits.

LEONI’s comprehensive understanding of overall systems has led to the development of intelligent components iPDS (Intelligent Power Distribution Switch) and iPDM (Intelligent Power Distribution Module), which are now ready for serial production. These are the ideal starting points for more intensive functional integration into wiring systems.

LEONI's electronic components are a first step on the way to the wiring system of the future with high functional safety.

Our iPDS electronic switch ensures power supply to safety-critical vehicle functions, making it the foundation for automated and autonomous driving. By quickly switching off non-safety-critical on-board power supplies in the event of failures, faults, or short circuits, it ensures the availability of safety-relevant systems such as electrical steering and braking assistance. The iPDM intelligent electronic power distributor solves this task even more elegantly. It allocates electrical energy to a scalable number of consumers in the vehicle, and can also protect connected wires against thermal overload if required.

Thanks to electronics, the vehicle’s entire power supply can be managed safely and enable far more intelligent functions than merely switching off the power. Such functions include self-diagnosis, wire diagnosis, communication with other ECUs via CAN or LIN, and subsequent expansion of the software-supported range of functions. The option to choose between the LEONI operating system and an Autosar-compliant operating system offers further flexibility, as does the ability to select different numbers of outputs and nominal loads. Reversible fuse protection and minimal maintenance requirements allow more freedom within the installation space, especially since electrification allows component size and weight to be reduced by up to half of that required for conventional fuse and relay boxes.

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Product roadmap for complexity management

LEONI’s intelligent power distributors are based on modular standard components that are selected based on customer requirements. They meet all the requirements of international OEMs as well as common standards (such as ISO 26262 and Automotive Spice Level 3), thus satisfying automated driving safety requirements.

In our development roadmap, iPDS and iPDM are logical intermediate steps toward zonal ECUs. In addition to data and power distribution, they will assume additional functions in the future for the sensors and actuators in their immediate vehicle environment. Because they are distributed over the entire vehicle periphery, highly integrated zonal ECUs are the ideal supplement for revolutionary architectural concepts with a few large “supercomputers.” These zonal control units can be expanded as needed to form power units, which could also feature a DC/DC converter and/or a small back-up battery to provide a certain degree of autonomy in voltage levels (12/24/48 Volt).

Zonal architecture will be a feature of future wiring systems.

LEONI offers comprehensive expertise in wiring system architecture, (thermo-)simulation, software/Autosar, hardware, functional safety, and participation in key standardization committees. We estimate that this overall system expertise, combined with new electronic components, enables up to 50-percent savings in installation space and weight in a well-coordinated wiring system solution. Even the additional costs of electronic solutions that are imposed by safety requirements can be partially compensated by skillful savings elsewhere in the wiring system. We are happy to work with you to develop solutions for your future wiring system. Please call us or meet with us virtually during the International Conference on Automotive Wire Harness and Electronic Distribution Systems, where my colleague Dr. Peter Grabs and I will be presenting this topic.

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