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Eurotech says its on-vehicle liquid-cooled processors ensure the highest computational density with zero noise, because fans are not needed. (Eurotech)

Autonomous testing calls for massive computing power

Company goes to high-performance frontier by building liquid-cooled processors for ADAS testing.

As humans, we are quite good at driving, which, curiously, is one of the issues facing the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Another is the development of testing equipment that can handle the massive amounts of data needed to develop the failsafe systems that will guide AVs. This can be measured in teraFLOPS — floating point operations per second — a massive amount of data, which needs to be gathered and stored in the hostile environment of a development vehicle.

The in-vehicle devices need to have the right bandwidth. As Giancarlo Cutrignelli, head of product management at Edge Computing specialist Eurotech, told SAE Media, these devices need to sustain all the operations, storage and processing at the feed speed. “You need to have all of them packed into the car. They need to fit in the trunk, essentially. Then you have power constraints because we also need to supply them from the car, but there’s a caveat.

“All the OEMs we are talking to at the moment are designing their systems on electric cars, not ICE. Electric cars means the autonomy needs to be managed and the maximum power needs to be managed and there are some systems in electric cars which do not allow you to suck energy out if they are needed for safety systems.”

In addition to performance and what Cutrignellli calls the power budget, these devices will be need to survive seven our eight or more hours of driving per day, every day.

“You want to have high performance, ruggedization and small form factor altogether to basically operate,” says Cutrignelli, “When you are storing and logging so much data, even the time to move this data away from the vehicle and back to the data center is relevant because there's a latency in starting a new log-in cycle. So even transferring this enormous amount of data quickly is an issue.”

Eurotech’s solution to these problems is multifaceted. The company acquired Munich-based InoNet Computer last fall. InoNet Computer specializes in configurable systems in the medical, industrial and automotive sectors. Eurotech has historically supplied two other technologies: liquid cooling and ruggedization. “We've been using industrial-grade liquid cooling,” says Cutrignelli, “We have expertise in how to ruggedize systems and put them in a small form factor. This is summarized in a portfolio of products which have a varying level of ruggedization, a varying level of logging capabilities available in different form factors. So, it's not a one-size-fits-all type of approach.”

Eurotech tends to use two kinds of liquid cooling. The first uses a closed circuit. “That's what we use, for example in Dynacore 6110 and 6210 series of products, where you have a hybrid approach. So, the most thermally critical elements are cooled down with the liquid.”

Where more cooling is required, Eurotech would use an external heat exchanger supplied with the machine, giving it complete independence. “It's like an external fridge that's cooling down and feeding the system,” continues Cutrignelli, “If form factor is more of an impact and if you can rely on connecting the liquid cooling system to the air-conditioning system of the car, then you can use that as a heat exchanger. In that case, we can offer solutions which are way more compact.”

Eurotech will pack a high-performance edge computer. “The challenge is really making sure that the system is well-dimensioned,” says Cutrignelli, “This is harder than people may think. You can be a data scientist and just look at the computational and the modelling part of it, or you can be more of a mechanical engineer, looking at the capability of surviving hostile conditions, with requirements on temperature ranges and so on. It's a journey together with the customer because the requirements are changing all the time.”

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