Digital Commercial Vehicle Technology
Modern agricultural machines and implements are software-controlled high-tech constructions. The driver can comfortably control all important functions via touchscreen: Thanks to this ingenious technology, the vehicle stays on track in the field and harvest quantities are entered into electronic maps, enabling the farmer to trace them at any time. Similar requirements are also fulfilled by the systems used in modern trucks, construction vehicles, or busses. The proportion of electronic control systems, the use of embedded software, and especially the simulation employed in the development of new products are continually increasing everywhere.
Pre-competition preliminary research in the Innovation Cluster
In order to deal with this complex issue, collaborations between research and business are expedient. Therefore, since April 2007 the Fraunhofer Innovation Cluster “Digital Commercial Vehicle Technology” has been aiming at linking the research and development competencies in the area of commercial vehicles and at advancing the development of embedded software in vehicle development as well as the use of software-supported simulation methods. To this end, the cluster unites the two Rhineland-Palatinate Fraunhofer Institutes for Industrial Mathematics (ITWM) and for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE) with companies from south-western Germany as well as from the region of Saarland/-Lorraine/Luxembourg with the goal of establishing a platform for the cooperation of researchers and engineers from universities, research institutions, and industrial companies. The Fraunhofer Innovation Cluster is embedded into the Commercial Vehicle Alliance of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and focuses on the technology transfer of innovative technologies and methods into industry. Financial support for the pre-development of demand-oriented solutions comes from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The cluster partners can use the research results in bilateral projects in real time and participate in the research planning via regular interchanges with the Fraunhofer researchers.
Technology transfer into companies
One example of the application-oriented cooperation of IESE in the Innovation Cluster is the collaboration with John Deere, a large, internationally operating manufacturer of agricultural machinery. The goal of this collaboration is to make modern IT technologies usable. GPS-controlled field work, for example, increases the efficiency of the harvest, provides data for fertilization and for the use of pesticides, and hence offers major advantages compared to former, non-GPS-supported methods. In order to develop products such as this in a market-oriented fashion, the Innovation Cluster closes the still existing gap between research and the application of new methods in everyday industrial life by linking research work tangibly with practice-oriented application.
In terms of content, the researchers from Fraunhofer support the agricultural machinery manufacturer in mastering the ever more extensive and complex software parts in their vehicles. The challenge lies in creating a flexible system architecture, which must sustain new technologies and functions while maintaining the high requirements of an investment asset regarding safety and reliability – at acceptable development costs. The work thus comprises research on the ideal softwareproduct structure as well as measures to increase productivity during development. One important aspect in this context is variation management for the various vehicle configurations. With the help of appropriate tools, common software parts can be identified and combined within the scope of a structural modification of the system. This reduces the effort for maintenance and changes and increases the productivity of the development.
In the years 2011-2013, the successful cluster concept will be continued with new focus areas in the application context of commercial vehicles under the motto “Vehicle / Environment / Human-Interaction”.