Several key trends are coming together to force a change in the way vehicles are designed and built. The number of electronic control units (ECUs) in a vehicle is growing, creating complexity in the wiring needed for power and data distribution. An explosion in sensor technologies to support active safety features is driving complexity in I/O. Rising labor costs are prompting manufacturers to look for more automatable assembly of wiring harnesses. And electrical power requirements are evolving to enable greater electrification, toward hybrid and full battery electric vehicles.
A critical piece of the solution to all these dilemmas — across a wide range of vehicles — is the zone controller. With a few strategically placed zone controllers, OEMs can not only reduce complexity and costs, but also accelerate the important migration toward vehicle architectures of the future.
The automotive industry has entered what could be the most exciting time in its history, with technology advances promising unparalleled safety, productivity and environmental benefits. But fully electric vehicles with self-driving capabilities won’t become mainstream or affordable overnight. Automakers realize they need to build the right architectural foundation for the vehicles of today and tomorrow.
Zone controllers are integral to that foundation. Zone controllers are nodes in a vehicle that serve as hubs for all of the power distribution and data connection requirements for devices – the various sensors, peripherals and actuators – within a physical section of the vehicle. Their role may sound simple, but it is necessary to get the complexity of today’s vehicles under control and to take several steps forward.