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OCEAN12 developing energy-saving sensors for autonomous flight and driving

A European research collaboration is working to develop energy-efficient sensor systems for autonomous flight and driving.

Bosch air taxi
The OCEAN12 project’s objective is to ensure that new sensor systems for future mobility concepts consume up to 90 percent less power than today’s systems. Bosch Image

Called OCEAN12 — for “Opportunity to Carry European Autonomous driviNg further with FD-SOI technology up to 12nm node” — the collaboration is based primarily on Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI) technology from the OCEAN12 project partner GlobalFoundries.

According to a press release, this method of semiconductor production involves adding an ultrathin layer of insulator to reduce what are called leakage currents, resulting in lower energy consumption and higher computing speed. “Based on this technology, the research alliance partners can subsequently develop components that offer an optimum combination of maximum energy efficiency with advanced computing power,” the release states.

The pan-European collaboration encompasses 27 partners from the fields of semiconductor technology, electronics, aerospace technology, and automotive technology. Bosch heads up the German consortium, which consists of 14 organizations also including Airbus, Audi, and GlobalFoundries, as well as numerous SMEs, research institutes, and universities.

The project partners will be working together up until the end of 2021 to develop various energy-efficient components that can collect and process data from the surroundings of vehicles and aircraft. These include surround sensors such as cameras and lidar or radar sensors, as well as microprocessors for processing data. The electronics translate the collected data into commands for downstream components — for example, braking or steering a car or controlling the propulsion of a flying taxi, according to Bosch.

“The OCEAN12 project’s objective is to ensure that new sensor systems for future mobility concepts consume up to 90 percent less power than today’s systems,” stated Bosch’s Dr. Tilman Glökler, noting that the new technology also enables very small sensor systems, as sensors containing high-performance evaluation circuits can be integrated as a system on a chip. “Energy-saving sensor systems are indispensable for automated driving and flying. As we apply our expertise in microelectronics to the OCEAN12 project, we are gradually moving closer to this goal,” Glökler said.

Funding for the OCEAN12 project (worth 103.58 million euros) comes from the European Union and national organizations. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the state of Saxony provide financial support. Together, all the sponsors will contribute some 48 million euros over the course of the project from mid-2018 to the end of 2021.

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