MAN Truck & Bus
The aim is as clear as it is ambitious: As “Smart Innovator”, MAN intends to bring the first fully networked, zero-emission truck to market, which will no longer need a driver.
Only a few years will pass until then. It therefore comes as no surprise that there is a huge amount of computing power buried in MAN’s current generation of trucks, enabling advanced driver assistance systems such as MAN CruiseAssist or turning aids, not to mention networking the vehicle with the cloud. However, it’s not just the sheer processing power that is setting new standards; we are also using an innovative and pioneering organisation of hardware and software, known as “E/E architecture”.
This has a decentralised structure in most cars and trucks today. Processing power and all software functions are distributed between dozens of tiny computers, or “control units”, which communicate with each other over the CAN-bus (Controller Area Network). “It’s almost as if your word processing, table calculations, presentations, web browser and email program each use a separate computer,” explains Stefan Riegl, head of Function and Software Development at MAN. “The network structure is very complex due to the continuous communication between control units.”
The central E/E architecture places all data and functions in one location.
To simplify the structure, many manufacturers orient their E/E architecture according to four vehicle areas: chassis, powertrain, body and driver assistance. MAN has gone one step further and based its new generation of vehicles on a central E/E architecture. Almost all the functions of a truck run on one single computer, the “Central Vehicle Manager” (CVM). It has high-performance hardware and the MAN OS 2.0 real-time operating system ensures that time-critical functions are guaranteed to run fast enough. “This central approach places all data and functions in one location,” explains Riegl.
If the CVM is a truck’s brain, it also has sense organs and muscles – sensors such as radar and actuators including electric motors. These are connected to special I/O (input/output) modules and linked to the central computer over the CAN-bus. “More or fewer can be installed, depending on the vehicle equipment,” explains Riegl. “This makes our trucks easily scalable.”
The performance of the CVM has risen consistently from generation to generation. Today, it can handle around 5,000 functions, whereas its predecessor was only capable of around a quarter of that. It will gradually improve in the future too. Processing power will double for the 2023/24 model year, and more I/O modules can also be connected. A huge leap is planned for three years after that: the CVM will then contain a GPU (graphics processing unit) as well as a conventional processor.
The 2025 model year will have a kind of second brain with the “Automation Domain Controller (ADC) fitted in all MAN trucks with autonomous driving capability. Its hardware is optimised for artificial intelligence (AI), which is a requirement for the vehicle to be able to drive without a human at the wheel. And should any problems occur with the ADC while the vehicle is under way, the CVM can take command and return the truck to a stable condition. Two parallel systems ensure maximum safety.
Read part 2: The E/E architecture used in MAN trucks is not only a requirement for networked and self-driving vehicles, it also facilitates the next stage of the company’s transformation and completely new business models.