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Audi's vehicle dynamics processor: One computer to rule them all

Audi wants more of its vehicles' systems to communicate through the same ECU, ideally allowing for a better drive all-around.

Not only will Audi's new ECU work with more inputs, it'll be able to do so across a variety of powertrains, electrified or otherwise.

Modern cars contain miles of wiring, connected to a series of electronic control units that basically tell the car what to do and when. This complex dance means evermore-complex interactions between various systems, which means the car may receive mixed messages in certain situations. Audi thinks it has a solution to that with its future vehicle dynamics processor.

Audi already has some synergy across its various systems by way of its Electronic Chassis Platform, which takes inputs from components like active roll bars, predictive suspension and all-wheel steering and processes them together to improve the car's handling. That way, when a car digs into a faster corner, the roll bars can help lift one side to improve cornering speeds. It can also be used for safety's sake, for example instantly lifting the left or right half of the car's suspension to brace for an impact and ensure crash forces are sent through the proper reinforced parts.

The automaker wants to take this one step further in the future, linking even more mechanical systems together by way of a single centralized processor, which currently lacks a flashy name but will undoubtedly pick one up eventually. Audi estimates that this system will operate 10 times faster than the current ECP, and it will expand its reach to cover up to 90 different parts of the car, an improvement over today's 20.

There's also another key piece of technology that will factor into Audi's new processing unit: electrification. The future vehicle dynamics processor will be capable of integrating more diverse powertrains, whether it's a traditional internal combustion engine, a pure EV or any mixture of the two. It will also be designed to work with front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive

Some of this already exists in Audi's E-Tron electric SUV, which runs a complex menagerie of electric and hydraulic systems to further smooth the transition from regenerative braking to the car's mechanical stoppers. Its integrated brake controller can receive data from other parts of the car, like its vehicle-to-x communications system or its onboard navigation, to process where the vehicle is driving and offer tips on when to let off the accelerator to improve overall range.

Dr. Klaus Diepold, a suspension and dynamics engineer at Audi, explains it pretty well in the automaker's press release: "Imagine that the car is supposed to enter a corner. This maneuver has so far been initially handled by the control unit of the steering system. At the same time, the control units of advanced driver assistance systems – such as lane departure warning – would issue a steering correction command. In the future, the wishes of both of these systems, in other words the steering and the advanced driver assistance systems, are centrally received by the vehicle dynamics computer. The computer centrally matches these two types of information and subsequently translates them into a directional change."

This is what Audi's ECP looks like. It's amazing how something this small can be so vital to a car's character.


So what does this mean for you, the end user? Well, most of what's described here won't even be on your radar, because this intermingling will be happening behind the scenes and on the order of milliseconds. What you will notice is a sharper distinction between sportier and softer vehicle modes, allowing greater comfort or precision as the mood demands. It should help make these vehicles safer, too, as the more communication is allowed between various parts of the car.

While Audi did not explicitly state which vehicle will first carry this tech, it's understood that it will make its initial appearance on one of the automaker's two medium-to-large-vehicle chassis, which makes sense as newfangled technologies generally arrive on more expensive vehicles to start. 

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