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ZF acquires a stake in Apex.AI; Apex.OS meta-operating system to add to ZF’s middleware options

ZF has strengthened its automotive software business by acquiring a five percent stake in the software company Apex.AI. In addition to the financial support, ZF will also develop software solutions based on the Apex.OS meta-operating system.

ZF’s investment was part of a $56.5 million Series B round led by Orillion, with Continental, AGCO, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures, Airbus Ventures, Toyota Ventures, Hella Ventures, Volvo Group Venture Capital, Canaan and Lightspeed also participating.

Based on the Apex.OS, we can offer our customers an additional ZF Middleware option. This solution is certified to the highest standards of functional safety for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Thus, we offer our customers an alternative to Autosar Adaptive.

—Nico Hartmann, head of the ZF Global Software Center

Among the ZF solutions for the software-defined vehicle, high-performance computers and software play a central role. In the electric and electronic architectures of the next-generation vehicles, they will control all important functions and connect them with both the vehicle systems and the outside world.

ZF Middleware is an open software platform that acts as a mediator between a vehicle computer’s operating system and its software applications. Key functions of the middleware are the abstraction of the computer hardware from software applications and the communication between these applications. The actual software functions, such as autonomous driving functions, can then in turn be built on top of this middleware.

Apex.OS is a meta-operating system derived from the Robot Operation System (ROS), originally developed for robotics applications. Apex.OS is a fork of ROS 2 that has been made real-time, reliable, and deterministic so that it can be used in safety-critical applications. Apex.OS is developed in sync with future releases of ROS 2 and APIs stay compatible to ROS 2.

Apex.OS Cert is certified according to the automotive functional safety standard ISO 26262 as a Safety Element out of Context (SEooC) up to ASIL D. As a result, this core software for high-performance automotive computers, including the associated software development kits, is readily available, thereby offering car manufacturers the option of deploying scarce human resources more in other areas that offer significant differentiation for the end customer.

Apex.OS can be used in all types of vehicles, such as passenger cars, robotaxis, shuttles and commercial vehicles, and independent of their level of automation.

Apex.OS is written in new standards of the C++ programming language, which enables a high reusability of individual building blocks. This approach is an alternative communication framework to the Adaptive Autosar standards widely used in the automotive industry. ZF can supply its customers with both approaches, depending on which variant the respective vehicle manufacturer prefers.


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