Highest quality standards – a key requirement for autonomous vehicles

The self-driving revolution is just around the corner and as it advances, the demands on vehicles and infrastructure are rapidly changing. The transition to fully autonomous vehicles poses immense challenges for the automotive industry, but also offers plenty of opportunities. At the center of this development stands the need for seamless and reliable data communication in order to ensure the safety and efficiency of road traffic in the future.

Demands on infrastructure for autonomous vehicles

Autonomous driving has experienced rapid development and level 3 systems are now standard in many vehicles. These systems enable the vehicle to take control under certain conditions, although the driver must be ready to step in at all times, if necessary. However, with the transition to autonomy levels 4 and 5, we are on the verge of some fundamental changes. These steps require far-reaching autonomy where the vehicle acts independently in almost all situations. This requires a permanent Internet connection, preferably via 5G, for real-time data transmission and processing. In addition, V2X communication plays an important role in ensuring the seamless and safe interaction of the vehicle with its environment.

Therefore, a basic condition for the road traffic of the future is a comprehensive expansion of the infrastructure, including a dense 5G network for fast data communication and V2X technologies such as sensors on the road. It also requires the maintenance and modernization of the road structure with high-reflective road markings, accurate map data and the development of support services for autonomous fleets of vehicles in cities. This includes setting up pick-up and drop-off areas, flexible use of sidewalks, and the creation of mobility hubs to ensure a seamless transition between different means of transport.

Data connections: the technical basis for autonomous driving

The second pillar of this development is the vehicle itself. En route to level 5 autonomous cars, the role of the driver will also change fundamentally, from actively steering the vehicle to simply being a passenger. This change places new, demanding requirements on vehicle technology. High-performance computers are at the heart of this technology, processing huge quantities of data collected by various sensors such as cameras, radar, LiDAR as well as peripheral components. Particular attention must be paid to redundancy and the ability to communicate, in order to ensure an uninterrupted connection even in the event of a failure. In the future, decentralized control units will be used in combination with central computers connected via a high-performance communication network (backbone) as part of the zone architecture. This will ensure a continuous monitoring and control of vehicle systems. Parallel to this, media offers for passenger entertainment and information during the journey will gain ground, further transforming the driving experience.

The risks and challenges involved in developing level 5 autonomous vehicles in the area of data communication should not be underestimated. One main problem is the reliability of the data transmission. Every interruption or hesitation can have a critical impact on road safety. The safety-critical nature of this system is huge as each and every vehicle control decision must be based on precise and up-to-date data. To ensure safety, fail-safe systems which continue to function reliably even in the event of partial failures, are necessary. Due to the direct impact on the life and limb of passengers and other road users, every system failure can have serious consequences. All these systems require data cables. They form the backbone of data transmission and ensure reliable and fast communication which is essential to the operation of level 5 autonomous vehicles.

Focus on reliability and safety

As autonomous driving becomes part of our everyday lives, the requirements on data cables in vehicles are changing considerably. This development requires a complete rethinking of network structures. The reliability of these systems is moving to the forefront – similarly to the development of the power grid for domestic use, where longer power failures used to be tolerated but are now absolutely unacceptable as they adversely affect critical systems such as locking and heating systems. In a similar way, a level 5 vehicle can no longer afford to have any connection problems or data failures, not even for short periods, and especially not when traveling at high speeds.

The data connections in these autonomous vehicles must operate safely and efficiently under all circumstances. Modern vehicles will be equipped with architectures that organize powerful clusters into functional domains connected by a high-speed data backbone. These structures will consist of a large number of data cables and must offer highly reliable, network-based structures with redundancy.

This requires robust systems suitable for automotive use that ensure continuous, faultless operation for thousands of hours, in harsh environments. They must also be able to ensure data integrity in order to prevent possible corruption in an electromagnetically sensitive environment. In this respect, it is crucial that the connectivity solutions meet the various requirements for data processing, latency and redundancy, depending on their specific application in vehicles.

Further development of production processes in cable manufacturing 

Therefore, suppliers in the area of data cables and cable manufacturing are particularly required to comply with the highest quality standards in order to meet the requirements of autonomous driving. In the process, new testing methods such as infrared camera applications and 100% X-ray and CT (Computed Tomography) inspections, supported by AI analyses, play a crucial role. These technologies enable a precise inspection and analysis of data connections and their assembly, in order to ensure the highest level of reliability and safety.

At MD ELEKTRONIK, the production processes are characterized by progressive automation which enables consistently high quality, large quantities and continuity of production. Automation is used in areas where requirements exceed the capabilities of people, which is essential when manufacturing state-of-the-art products. The ability to achieve fast, targeted adaptation of production processes is just as important as the possibility to directly integrate precise quality controls into increasingly sophisticated processes.

MD benefits from many years of experience not only in cable manufacturing and product development, but also in the development and construction of production systems which can be used for automated production and testing. This experience constantly flows into the development of future systems in order to achieve the highest possible level of automation.

Safety through quality

The realization of level 4 and level 5 autonomous vehicles places complex demands on infrastructure, vehicle technology and data connections. The development of high-performance, reliable data transmission systems is particularly important in ensuring the safety of the vehicle’s occupants and other road users. To meet the high demands of autonomous driving, suppliers and manufacturers must comply with the highest quality standards in producing the components and use advanced technologies and processes. MD ELEKTRONIK’s long-standing experience in cable manufacturing, production development and the construction of its own production systems enables accurate quality controls to be integrated directly into increasingly demanding manufacturing processes.

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Jochen Stein

Jochen Stein is Senior Key Account Quality Manager at MD ELEKTRONIK. With over 20 years’ experience in the automotive industry, he has already mastered a number of complex challenges and optimized processes along the way. His passions include the digitalization and automation of business processes and as an experienced manager in Production and later in Quality Management, he enjoys applying his passion for innovation and continuous improvement to his work at MD. He enjoys playing a part in developing the mobility of the future and is already looking forward to traveling around in fully autonomous vehicles in the future.

Frank Götze

Frank Götze is Director Quality Operations at MD ELEKTRONIK. After completing his studies in materials sciences at the Technical University of Dresden, his path in quality management led him to MD, via several posts along the way, including utility vehicle manufacturing and steel processing. He is particularly interested in fields such as leadership, AI and scientific subjects in general. In his private life, he enjoys sport (mountain biking and swimming) and reading biographies. His motto is “BE USEFUL” (Arnold Schwarzenegger).