Zone Control Units with Connections

Server-Zone Vehicle Architecture

Zone Control Units

Zone Control Units

New ECU Platform for Server-Zone Vehicle Architectures

Continental is successfully driving forward the implementation of server-zone architectures in vehicles. The pioneering development and delivery of High-Performance Computers (HPC) is now followed by so-called Zone Control Units (ZCU), which are another key component for the software-defined vehicle.

Zone Control Units reduce vehicle network complexity as well as costs by supporting centralized architectures and the increasing separation of soft- and hardware. Additionally, they are a prerequisite for continuous updates, improvements and function deployment services to support the transformation towards the software-defined vehicle.

Zone Control Units for Greater Efficiency

Where individual functions or functional areas were previously integrated into the vehicle in individual control units, new thinking is now being applied. The new Zone Control Units consolidate vehicle functions in physical zones close to the sensors and actuators and form the middle layer between the server level of the HPCs and the individual sensors and actuators "on site“. This ensures intelligent task distribution between all levels.

Zonal Architecture
Classical Vehicle Architecture
Zonal Architecture for Zone Control Unit

Zone Control Units take over the role as a communication gateway, provide smart power distribution and ensure the reliable execution x-Domain real-time vehicle functions, such as audio, external sound, parking assistance, air condition or suspension.

Each Zone Control Unit (ZCU) bundles all functions in a local sub-area of the vehicle. For example, ZCUs are responsible for all control, service and data management tasks in that particular area at the front right or left, or in the rear of the vehicle. This optimizes cables between ZCUs and electronic components. The few ZCUs are each connected to the responsible HPC by a high-performance link, like Ethernet. The result is an architecture that reduces complexity while saving weight and thus CO².

ZCU Key Features

Zone Control Unit Device Exposed
  • Main ECU of a physical vehicle zone, located near the sensors/actuators and peripheral devices
  • Local gateway within a physical zone with Ethernet backbone connection to vehicle server (HPC)
  • ​Hub for x-Domain zonal management of signals, data and power​
  • Ability to support service-oriented architecture with services for standardized input/output controls ​
  • Ability to host critical x-Domain real-time functions ​​
  • Controls power supply in the zone (Smart Power Distribution/ SPD) including electronic fusing, diagnosis and recovery
  • Classic AUTOSAR based Operating System (OS)​​
  • Usage of single- or multicore microcontrollers

Scalable and Modular Solution

Continental's ZCU platform is scalable and modular to give vehicle manufacturers maximum flexibility in designing vehicle architectures. Full integration is possible for hardware, software (services) and 3rd party functions.

The modular design of the platform gives you the freedom to optimally adapt the respective ZCU to the specific requirements of an application. Since proven application software can be reused in new vehicle models, the validation effort is reduced and development is accelerated - the time to market is shorter. The Continental platform for Zone Control  Units thus helps to optimize costs and development time.

Scalability Zone Control Unit Platform
  • Modular and scalable ZCU platform solution to enable fast adaptions
  • ZCU platform provides a flexible integration base open for Continental's function library as well as 3rd party software
  • Scalable mechanical concept and different connector types
  • Enhanced backbone scalability with different microcontroller families from low to superior performance
  • Flexible solutions for bus systems and smart power distribution
  • Platform solution addresses safety levels up to ASIL C and in future ASIL D

Smart Power Distribution

The server-zone architecture and new smart fuse components allow a new decentralized power distribution in the vehicle architecture. Thus, the Zone Control Unit can also supply power to the control units as well as sensors and actuators in the proximity.

Smart Power Distribution for Zone Control Unit

The Zone Control Unit provides a controlled power supply for the control units, sensors and actuators in the respective zone. It controls power consumption decentrally in the zone and improves power monitoring and diagnostic capabilities. A ZCU enables software-controlled power distribution and, for example, distributes power according to the priority of the loads. It also reduces the length, diameter and complexity of the wiring harness. An optional redundant power supply to cover safety requirements can also be realized.

Smart Power Distribution
  • Multiple diagnostics
  • Auto-protection against over current, voltage, temperature
  • Reactivation in case of a failure possible
  • Control of electrical parameters (current, voltage, temperature)
  • Smaller wire diameter (switch off characteristic can be adjusted)
  • Predictive load balancing (temporary switch off of loads for compensation of other loads; safety vs. comfort)
  • Monitor the parameter of the power stages for usage in a central energy management
  • Control software can be integrated in the microcontrollers of the ZCU variants

Zone Control Units:
Key Component for the Software-Defined Vehicle.

As more complex software features are introduced, ZCUs help unlock the full potential of the software-defined vehicle. By supporting the increasing separation of software and hardware, ZCUs reduce the complexity and costs of vehicle networks. This separation is required for continuous updates, enhancements and feature delivery services in connected vehicles.

Why with Continental?

Continental’s Zone Control Units help unlock the full potential of the software-defined vehicle as more complex software functions are continuously introduced. Why Continental is your partner of choice?

  • Full x-Domain provider for all hardware and software elements of server-zone architecture
  • Market leader for body & network electronics with years of experience in all markets
  • Full capabilities in architecture definition and system integration
  • Modular and scalable ZCU platform solution to enable fast adaptions with limited effort
  • Strong experience in seamlessly integrating 3rd party software into ZCUs
  • Flexible business models from full system to hardware or application functions only
Zone Control Unit Uniquely Exposed

The Importance of Zone Control Units in Software-defined Vehicles

The widespread transition towards software-defined vehicles and the need to reduce complexity and wiring harnesses is revolutionizing E/E architectures.

Just watch our recorded web session on the Zonal Architecture.

Do you want to know more?

*If the contact form does not load, please check the advanced cookie settings and activate the functional cookies for the purpose of contact management.