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Solutions for the Urban Mobility of Tomorrow

Urban transport of the future will undergo a transformation. ZF has developed five solutions that will make cities quieter, cleaner and safer.

Text: Christoph Reifenrath , 11. September, 2017

Christoph Reifenrath has been a TV and print journalist for 35 years and is part of the ZF Copy Team. His favorite part of the job is delving into complex technical topics.

1. Intelligent Platform Concepts

Through its broad product portfolio, ZF has the opportunity to offer intelligent, integrated system solutions. These can be turnkey based on which a wide variety of mobility solutions can be implemented – from electric compact cars to autonomous delivery vehicles. Manufacturers essentially need only the car body/bodyshell, the battery system and the interior to put their vehicles on four wheels.

An electric drive system with an output of up to 150 kW provides propulsion that is locally emission-free. The compact drive unit is a combination of the electric motor, a two-stage transmission, a differential and the power electronics. It saves space through its location in the mSTARS modular axle system. This makes the electrification of vehicle platforms in volume production particularly simple and flexible.

Urban transport also benefits from an innovatively designed ZF steering system that allows for a steering angle of up to 75 degrees – a 50 percent improvement over conventional front axles – facilitating turning, parking and maneuvering.

The platform can also provide the necessary sensors, a central control unit and all interfaces for advanced assistance systems ranging from highly automated to autonomous driving functions.

2. Cars that see, think and act

ZF competence combines environmental sensors such as cameras and radar (“see”) with central electronic control devices (“think”) and intelligent mechatronics in the drive, chassis and steering system (“act”). The result is more efficient and safer vehicles.

In sensor technology, ZF is able to offer a wide range of complementary systems, from cameras to LIDAR sensors to radar sensors, developed in-house or through joint ventures or strategic partnerships. These systems allow vehicles to monitor their environment at all times and react much more precisely and quickly to potential hazards.

If sensors are the eyes of the autonomous vehicle, then ZF ProAI is the brain. Developed in cooperation with IT specialist Nvidia, the control unit processes huge amounts of data in real time and makes the right decisions at lightning speed. Making this possible requires artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning. Vehicles train themselves continuously, gain experience with every kilometer and share what they learn with other vehicles through the cloud. Together with Nvidia, ZF and ProAI are making it possible to use the computing power of a supercomputer – a requirement of artificial intelligence and deep learning – in passenger and commercial vehicles.

In addition to eyes and a brain, ZF also provides the necessary muscles for automated driving systems: Mechatronic actuators like drive, braking, steering and chassis systems respond in fractions of a second to the current traffic situation and precisely carry out the solution calculated by the control unit.

With ZF ProAI, ZF and Nvidia are introducing artificial intelligence

3. Electrical last-mile solutions

For urban deliveries, environmentally friendly means of transport such as cargo e-bikes, delivery robots or small electric trucks are ideal. ZF is helping shape the trend toward environmentally friendly city mobility in the area of two-, three- and four-wheeled vehicles weighing less than 400 kilograms and with less than 15 kW of drive output. The recently introduced 48-volt mid-mounted engine weighs just 2.5 kilograms and has a diameter of only 90 millimeters. The drive will be available in two power levels of either 250 or 350 watts. Thanks to its compact design and low weight, it offers significantly greater freedom of design for bicycle manufacturers.

4. Locally emission-free public transport

Large manufacturers expect that in 2030 60 to 70 percent of all new city buses will have emission-free drive systems. ZF Friedrichshafen AG offers a broad product and services portfolio for electrification of commercial vehicles. One focus is on drive solutions for limited-range urban vehicles. The latest development is an all-electric central drive that can be used in a range of bus systems and in delivery trucks in urban areas. This is a convenient addition to the currently available AVE 130 electric portal axle.

Small e-buses for up to 15 passengers could soon mean fixed stops and schedules are a thing of the past. These “people movers” will provide service to less frequented regions and bring passengers home safely and flexibly, even at night. As part of the planned joint venture e.GO Moove, ZF is working on an electrically powered, universally expandable and usable minibus that is suitable for both passenger and commercial transport.

ZF’s AVE 130 electric portal axle based on an electric single-wheel drive

5. Networked fleets

Simultaneously supplying large cities, keeping their inhabitants mobile and reducing environmental impacts is one of the major challenges of the future. One key is optimal control and monitoring of vehicle fleets from taxis to trucks. With Openmatics, ZF offers a very versatile, manufacturer-independent telematics solution. Thanks to a variety of interfaces, it can communicate with all relevant vehicle systems. The service is therefore suitable for fleet management as well as vehicle diagnostics – and in case of buses, for passenger information or multimedia applications as well. Another big plus is the open architecture. Vehicle manufacturers, component suppliers and fleet operators can program and adjust individual apps, making the system equally suitable for taxi companies, car rental agencies, leasing companies, and operators of truck and bus fleets.

To support seamless autonomous driving, however, these vehicles also require an on-board digital agent that can independently carry out tasks and authorize payments without the owner or user having to do so. With the ZF solution “Car eWallet”, based on secure blockchain technology, vehicles will be able to automatically pay parking fees, collect car-sharing charges, pay at the charging station or when the delivery to the car is complete automatically pay the bill.

Keyword security: With X2Safe, ZF offers another forward-looking technology that can prevent accidents in urban areas. X2Safe can communicate with vehicles, smartphones and smart watches to give drivers, pedestrians and cyclists advanced warning of collisions in city traffic. Autonomous or semi-autonomous systems in the vehicle can intervene accordingly – including making evasive maneuvers or emergency stops. Best of all, the more people and vehicles are connected by this interactive safety network, the more effectively accidents can be prevented.

Pedestrians and drivers of passenger cars are notified of potential dangers by X2Safe