PARK RIDGE, Ill. TTA Group and the FlexRay Consortium, two key organizations battling for the high ground of the automotive "by-wire" arena, said today that they now hope to agree on a common safety-critical standard.
Both organizations told EE Times the move toward a common standard will occur over the next few weeks, as key members of the TTA (Time-Triggered Architecture) Group move to FlexRay. Announcements of those moves are expected during March, possibly as early as Tuesday (March 4), in connection with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) 2003 Congress in Detroit.
"We are still in discussions with members of TTA Group to form a real common standard for all of us," said Claas Bracklo, senior manager of electrical engineering in Passenger Car Development for DaimlerChrysler. "But we haven't finalized anything yet."
The announcement came as a surprise to some members of the automotive community because FlexRay said last year that the time for a common effort had passed.
Volkswagen, a member of the TTA Group, is widely rumored to be contemplating a move to FlexRay. Karl-Thomas Neumann, who heads electrical engineering development for the German automaker, has publicly urged both camps to agree on a common standard.
"He is actively pushing to come to some kind of conclusion with FlexRay," said Georg Kopetz, managing director and co-founder of TTTech Computertechnik AG (Vienna, Austria), a key member of TTA Group. Kopetz added that "some companies that are active in TTA could pop up as members of FlexRay in the future."
Volkswagen could not be reached for comment on its plans.
Agreement of a standard is critical to implementation of steer-by-wire, brake-by-wire, throttle-by-wire, and suspension-by-wire systems in vehicles. With such systems, functions such as braking and steering would be controlled by computers, and would not employ traditional hydraulic and mechanical linkages as they do now.
Data bus architectures, such as those proposed by FlexRay and TTA Group, would make such systems ultra-reliable, and therefore compensate for the fact that they would no longer have mechanical back-ups. Both organizations plan to achieve that reliability through so-called "time-triggered" data bus architectures, which would ensure that data messages are always received when needed.
TTA Group, which is farther along with its hardware and software architectures, currently counts Audi, Delphi Automotive Systems, Honeywell, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, TTTech and Volkswagen among its members.
FlexRay's consortium now includes BMW, Bosch Automotive Group, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Philips Semiconductors, and Texas Instruments among its members.
TTA Group said that it would gain momentum on Monday when it announces that TTChip Entwicklungs-GmbH, a subsidiary of TTTech, will announce a strategic partnership for the joint development of microcontrollers with on-chip Time-Triggered Protocol (TTP) with Hitachi. Under the agreement, TTChip will provide TTP -related intellectual property, while Hitachi contributes expertise in the development of automotive microcontrollers. The company formed a similar relationship with NEC Electronics in December.
"The Hitachi deal is important, and it helps the convergence effort because it provides the auto industry with a technology that can be used now," Kopetz said. "If there is some convergence [between the two groups], the industry can benefit from proven solutions and from the desire to get a common industry standard completed."
Koptez added that the TTA Group "would like to put an end to the feud" between the two organizations.
FlexRay officials made a distinction, however, between working toward a common standard, and working toward convergence. "TTA Group members are welcome to join FlexRay, but there are no plans for adoption of the TTA architecture into FlexRay," said Bracklo of DaimlerChrysler, who is also a FlexRay official.
FlexRay said that TTTech's available silicon will not make a difference in the decision on a common standard. "We can now fulfill our time requirements from the OEM side, so there is no need to hurry just to have silicon available," Bracklo said.