Fail-Operational Strategies for Highly-Integrated Automotive ECUs

Expert Talks: Rupert Schorn on his Master’s Thesis

In the presence of the ever-increasing connectivity inside and outside modern vehicles as well as of the large amount of sensor data being processed, the complexity of E/E systems and their software functionality is growing exponentially. This development has shown that safe and secure communication is required for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.

We were joined by Rupert Schorn, who was part of the PRYSTINE project at TTTech Auto and who completed his master’s theses on this topic. PRYSTINE is aimed at realizing Fail-operational Urban Surround perception based on a combination of robust Radar and LiDAR sensor fusion feeding control functions with high resolution data. You can read more about the project and TTTech Auto’s role here.

This project provided a base for Rupert’s master’s thesis titled: Fail-Operational Strategies for Highly-Integrated Automotive ECUs. We interviewed him on his experiences and key takeaways from the project.

1. What made you choose to do your masters on this project/ at TTTech Auto?

I heard about the TTTech Group while studying at TU Wien, where Wilfried Steiner leads the “Dependable Systems” course. This topic was interesting to me, so I applied for a part-time job at TTTech Auto. After a year of collaboration, we decided that with the vast number of interesting topics and opportunities at TTTech Auto, it would be a perfect place to base my master’s thesis on. I didn’t even check any other opportunities at TU Wien.

2. How was working in a corporate situation different to your practical university work?

My impression is that working at a company is clearly more outcome oriented compared to working at the university where there is sometimes a little more freedom regarding how to achieve a specific goal, and even regarding the (re-) definition of the goals. For me, working in both areas, both approaches have different benefits and drawbacks.

3. This project has multiple facets and partners, how did you manage that aspect of your work?

Some parts of my work required input from other partners, e.g. when thinking about a possible migration of features that are currently implemented on software level into hardware. That’s why I collaborated closely with our partners, especially with Infineon. They are the providers of the safety controllers on our platform. My other experiences with different partners was very versatile, informative, and productive, which was also a key aspect for the huge success of the PRYSTINE project.

4. Working on such a large project, how do you think your master’s impacted the overall outcome?

My master’s thesis Fail-Operational Strategies for Highly-Integrated Automotive ECUs was one small piece of the complete contribution of the project, where many partners were involved. In the area of (potential) system architectures for automated driving aiming for SAE levels 3+, some other companies besides TTTech Auto were also involved and doing independent investigations. Therefore, the impact of my master’s on the overall outcome is small, but at the same time, important since system architecture is a very fundamental topic in the larger project.

5. What were the most interesting parts about working on this project? (the team, the partnerships, the nature of the work, the practical aspect… etc.)

For me the most interesting part about working on this project was the large amount of companies that were involved. It was very exciting to learn about different companies in the automotive domain across Europe. In the review meetings, scheduled once a year, all parties gathered together to discuss the project. At first this was done in person in Brussels, and subsequently virtually owing to travel and meeting restrictions. Meeting these different people from various companies and learning about their topics and expertise was definitely the most exciting part of this project.

6. What were the biggest challenges for you in the project and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for me was keeping proper time management, to make sure all of my tasks and duties were completed on time. While I was also working on the PRYSTINE project, consisting of the theoretical work on Fail-Operational system architectures and practical implementation in the form of a Fail-Operational Demonstrator, I also was working (part time) as a project engineer in the “Advanced Projects” team, realizing pre-series projects. Handling all these projects/topics in parallel was sometimes hard, but it forced me to improve my time management/organizational skills.

7. What do you look forward to most in your new position of project engineer at TTTech Auto?

I am very interested and curious about the progress in automated driving systems towards fully autonomous driving (SAE level 5) not just in theory, but also in practice. Since TTTech Auto is a big contributor in this area, I am able to follow the ongoing transition towards fully autonomous driving and even contribute to this myself. Seeing the first (fully) autonomous cars on the roads will be a very good feeling for TTTech Auto employees, knowing that we contributed to realize this major milestone.

“Funded R&D projects such as PRYSTINE are significantly boosting outstanding technological solutions thanks to the successful cooperation of industry and academia. Thus, innovations arise in a shorter time exploiting synergies and integrating excellent research results as those achieved by Rupert,” says Dr. techn. Anna Ryabokon, Senior Innovation Projects and Funding Manager at TTTech, “Celebrating these distinguished results, we wish Rupert a successful career path at TTTech Auto! With this proud example we are looking forward attracting more students to explore and contribute to an exciting automated driving field with us.”

“Rupert did a fantastic job that clearly goes way beyond a master’s thesis. It was always a pleasure to discuss the technical problem and possible solutions with Rupert and I am very grateful for projects like PRYSTINE that enables such industry/academic cooperation,” says Dr. Wilfried Steiner, Director TTTech Labs.

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