From 2015 onwards, the time that automobiles will need to spend in the repair shop could be significantly decreased. This will be possible thanks to joint research work undertaken by AUDI, Continental, Infineon Technologies and ZMDI. In the DIANA project, the companies have focused their research on ways of improving the analytical and diagnostic ability in electronic control units (ECUs) in vehicles. In three years of research under Infineon’s leadership, methods have been created that enable more differentiated detection of errors and, in turn, make correction of these errors in the repair shop much faster. With the support of research institutions and universities, the way has been paved for the “End-to-end diagnostic capabilities in semiconductor components and higher-level systems for analyzing persistent and sporadic errors in automobiles” (German acronym that translates DIANA).
Vehicle electronics nowadays are extremely complex. On average a modern car makes use of 80 ECUs, and in premium class vehicles there could even be a hundred or more. Experience has shown that it is not possible to establish beyond doubt the precise cause behind many of the errors reported by the vehicle’s electronic system. Often the repair shop has no alternative but to try to narrow down the definition of the error by systematically replacing system components until, in this way, the error is ultimately remedied.
Thanks to the method elaborated in the DIANA project, in future electronic errors in automobiles will be identified much faster, meaning that they can be repaired more efficiently. The decisive factors behind this achievement are the methods of quality control deployed in semiconductor production. These methods have been further developed by the DIANA research partners so that the chips incorporated into automobiles can be directly used for the vehicle’s own diagnostic system. As a result, the ECUs in the vehicle can constantly monitor themselves both before and while the vehicle is driven. On the basis of these continuously gathered, self-diagnostic data, it is possible to detect errors at an early stage of development because the diagnostic data are passed on in pre-processed form to the ECU’s higher-level system components. This is a significant benefit to the mechatronics engineers in the repair shop when they have to diagnose errors. Such a comprehensive diagnostic ability in automobiles has only become possible because of the targeted and coordinated research and development work of the DIANA partners.
If this diagnostic technology proves reliable in automobiles, there is certainly scope for applications in other fields in which safety is important, e.g. in other forms of transport such as trains and airplanes or also in medical technology.
The DIANA project received roughly Euro 4.8 million in support from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the government’s high-tech strategy and “Information and Communication Technology Program 2020” (IKT 2020). Key topics of the IKT 2020 program are, among others, Automobiles and Mobility, with the aim of achieving significant improvement in the robustness of automotive electronics.