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The search for the pioneers in autonomous driving leads to an industry which may not immediately come to mind: mining. In this segment, autonomously driving machinery such as huge mega trucks has long been used in day-to-day operations to achieve a significant increase in productivity, safety and efficiency. All of this happens in very harsh surroundings and major temperature fluctuations, and dust and humidity are part of the everyday working routine of such machines and place high demands on all components involved.
Electronics in particular are subject to significant stress in such systems, which can have a critical impact on their functionality. Finding solutions to these challenges is the goal of the so-called CHARM (Challenging Environments Tolerant Smart Systems for IoT and AI) research project, in which AT&S is also involved, as Hannes Stahr, Group Technology Manager at AT&S, explains: “Together with companies and research institutions from 10 different countries, we are working on the development of powerful computer modules which could be used in fully autonomous mining vehicles in the future. AT&S’s contribution is the development of a robust and resilient interconnect concept for a high-performance computer chip.”
During the concept development phase, a measurement chip is used to check and validate system stability and reliability. In a later phase, this chip is replaced by a high-performance processor, which is embedded in a substrate – the translator between the microworld of the printed circuit board and the nanostructures of the microchip – thus enabling miniaturisation and highest data processing speeds at the same time. This is what enables the machinery used to carry out complex activities while the stable design at the same time guarantees maximum operational safety. The development work of this project focuses on the application area of mining. Nevertheless, the results can also be used in other segments: “Of course we can also apply the learnings from this project to areas of autonomous driving for cars and trucks,” says Stahr. First collaborations with the automotive supply industry are already in place, which – just like mining – requires maximum reliability and safety in all environmental conditions for these system-relevant components.
The CHARM project, which is scheduled for three years, is implemented as part of the ECSEL (Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership) initiative. The public-private partnership initiated by the EU pursues the goal to drive innovation for electronic components and systems and to improve Europe’s competitiveness in the era of the digital economy.
CHARM is a comprehensive three-year project with 37 partners from ten European countries and a total budget of € 29 million. It is co-financed via ECSEL, EU Horizon 2020, national funding agencies of the participating countries and the consortium partners. The partners come from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland.