Acceleration of adoption of intelligent controls and connectivity to the cloud

  • 03-May-2013 04:55 EDT
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Georg Kopetz, Managing Director, TTControl GmbH.

The rapid increase in automation and computerized controls makes today’s off-highway vehicles more intelligent than ever before: Smart sensors and actuators deployed in active safety systems increase productivity and performance while supporting safety of the machine as well as the operator by continuously monitoring the working area.

Diagnostics and remote assistance as well as predictive maintenance functions continue to increase in importance. Therefore, new high-speed and real-time connectivity to the cloud and machine-to-machine interaction are becoming key topics for the development of efficient mobile machines in the next years. This accelerating trend of the “Internet of Things” will have a profound impact on the mobile machinery industry.

By implementing new advanced safety and automation technologies, a solid management of the ever increasing complexity in electronics is required. The high growth in useful software functions (“apps”) requires a maximum of reliability and robustness of the electronic platform. The platforms also need to provide scalability for upgrades in the electronic architecture due to the long life cycle of the mobile machines.

In the off-highway industry an additional challenge is to guarantee this superior electronic system performance even under extremely harsh environmental conditions. We will thus see the deployment of more fault-tolerant electronic architectures, leading the way to fail-operational machines, not only in the mining industry.

The high availability of the electronic system architecture will become a key selling argument for the machine maker. Already today the limp-home mode in some of the electronic control units ensures that the vehicle can be safely returned, e.g., driven to the workshop, even if there is a failure in a part of the controller that controls an implement, for example.

As a specialist in functional safety and fault-tolerant system architectures, TTControl brings new networking and safety technologies on the basis of Deterministic Ethernet (TTEthernet) to the mobile machinery market. This high-speed networking infrastructure complements CAN bus technology and enables ultra-robust electronic control systems for off-highway vehicles to function under the most difficult conditions.

Standards that address functional safety at TTControl include not only IEC 61508 and ISO/EN 13849 but also increasingly ISO 26262, the automotive derivative of IEC 61508. For the roadworthiness of mobile machines some OEM engineering teams have to follow the regulations of ISO 26262. TTControl customers can benefit from the in-depth automotive experience of TTTech, one of TTControl’s joint-venture partners, in ISO 26262. The second partner of the joint-venture is HYDAC. This positions TTControl also as a suitable partner for the smart integration of hydraulics and electronics functions, another important industry trend.

Due to growing safety requirements and enhanced functionalities, human-machine interfaces are a highly critical and an important element in the design of off-highway vehicles today.

With advanced electronic systems, completely new cabin designs are possible. For example, the steering column can be removed when steering is done electronically. Such cabins give the operator an ideal view to the front. This can be enhanced further when adding camera systems that allow a surround view or even a virtual top view of the vehicle. Such cameras are typically attached to the display panel in the cabin. Picture-in-picture functionality allows display of other important information such as alerts next to the camera image.

The operator has the advantage of a very fast display with high resolution up to HD. This allows the design of very clearly laid-out displays whose ergonomics can be further increased using 3-D effects, thanks to hardware acceleration. The operator panel family HY-eVision² from TTControl, already available in two display sizes (7 and 10.4 in), supports all these functionalities today.

Such advanced operator interfaces thus already support the mega-trend of the "Internet of Things" today, i.e., vehicle networking and external connectivity of off-highway vehicles to the cloud.

OEMs can benefit from substantial improvements in operational efficiency with more automated systems and autonomous functionality combined with the ability to collect, analyze, and utilize large amounts of data in real time. These capabilities enable the deployment of off-highway vehicles in an optimized way, leading to higher productivity and reduced downtime cost with built-in predictive maintenance.

Georg Kopetz, Managing Director, TTControl GmbH, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.

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