Design tools

July 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

Electronic application development work continues despite dire conditions in the auto industry and, arguably now more than ever, engineers need robust tools to help them deliver quality work in less time. Tool vendors are responding by providing links to complementary products, leveraging “ecosystems,” and customizing solutions for large customers. Some vendors have expanded their portfolios to the extent that some developers are opting to standardize.

“The auto industry is a mess right now,” remarked Frank Schirrmeister, director of product marketing for system-level solutions at Synopsys Inc. “Application developers are contending with conflicting tradeoffs between cost reduction and the need to add features and functionality to differentiate new vehicles from competition.”

One way that automakers are dealing with that dilemma is to use generic hardware for its cost advantage and rely on software for differentiation. “Developers need effective tools for hardware verification, and they must be able to simulate software early in the development process,” Schirrmeister said. Synopsys’ Saber system reduces overall development time by facilitating software development on a virtual electronic control unit.

“Providing engineers with tools to help them do their respective jobs is an important goal. There are ‘point tools’ in existing development processes, but the critical value to the customer comes from integrating key process steps and the tools used in those steps. That is often what leads to reduced development time, better ability to deal with changing requirements, more reuse of components, and not doing the same thing twice,” said Jon Friedman, automotive marketing manager at The MathWorks.

Friedman said The MathWorks offers link products that enable engineers to move smoothly between different stages of their work, even when different tools are involved. “For example, it is important for engineers to be able to trace their design back to the requirement that drove the implementation. We provide a link to requirements tools such as (Telelogic) DOORS, (Microsoft) Word and Excel, and (Adobe Systems) PDF through the Requirements Management Interface, which is part of our Simulink V&V (verification and validation) product.  This link allows the engineers bi-directional traceability from requirements to model and from model back to requirements,” Friedman explained.

“Reports indicate that up to 70% of project defects are attributed to requirements management and traceability,” added John Greenland, vice president of business development at LDRA Technology, Inc. LDRA’s TBreq automates the traceability of software requirements through all phases of development, enabling developers to reduce software errors, project costs and resource constraints.

“By linking with a requirements database in DOORS, Word, Excel, or PDF format, LDRA’s TBreq creates a relationship between requirements, code modules, and verification artifacts such as static analysis, dynamic analysis, and unit and system level test to make them visible across a network of user workspaces. Changes and test results are recorded, and any requirements impacted by these changes are highlighted so that all team members can identify data which might be suspect,” Greenland said.

Time saving

ETAS has developed technology based on XCP to connect its INCA measurement and calibration (MC) tool to The MathWorks’ SimuLink modeling tool so that INCA users can calibrate SimuLink models interactively. “Developers frequently want to reuse the calibrations from series production when starting development on a new program,” noted David Howarth, ETAS director of marketing. “They need a way to pull in the ECU production calibrations without having to reenter them by hand.”  

Another link, also using XCP, speeds up dynamometer test time. “A user can connect dyno test control or calibration optimization software such as AVL CAMEO or PUMA to ETAS hardware,” Howarth said. “The ETAS ES910 can execute highly optimized ECU operations under the overall control of the test control software, which significantly increases the speed of the tests and reduces overall dyno test time.”

Automakers’ development teams are smaller these days but the pressure on developers to produce is as great as ever, if not greater, and design tools play an increasingly valuable role, according to John Carbone, vice president of marketing at Express Logic.

Carbone’s firm has integrated two time-saving design aids with BenchX, its Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for embedded systems. TraceX gives developers a graphical view of interrupts, context-switches, and other real-time system events so the engineers can pinpoint the timing of event occurrences and quickly see unexpected behavior. StackX performs a comprehensive analysis of a complete application at the executable code level, computing worst-case stack usage for accurate memory allocation.

The latest version (2.1) of Vector CANtech’s CANoe/MATLAB Interface is said to simplify data exchange between the two tools. The interface is signal-oriented, thus users do not have to adapt models to CAN, LIN or FlexRay bus systems. Real-time hardware in the loop (HIL) simulations can be implemented by linking CANoe and MATLAB directly. The Simulink Model Viewer integrated in CANoe gives users a detailed look at the MATLAB/Simulink simulation node models and enables direct access to internal model parameters.

Model-based design

“There is increasing movement from traditional design processes – try something and see how it works, or ad hoc design – to model-based design,” said Vector CANtech PND product line manager Rick Lotoczky. “We have tools that support that kind of development. We can help companies generate models automatically to allow customers to reduce their time to market.” Lotoczky said that compared with a network model hand-developed by a customer, the automated development package reduces the time required from about a month to about 15 minutes.

In addition to CANoe, for ECU simulation, the firm offers CANape for calibration and bypass simulation, CANalyzer for bus measurement and characterization and debug, and a variety of specialized products. Vector’s VT System consists of input/output modules for building ECU test solutions. As many as 12 modules and a backplane fit in a 19-inch rack.

“Hybrid/electric and other new vehicle architectures involve more complex interactions between vehicular subsystems – therefore increasing the urgency to do more system-level simulation before prototypes are available,” noted ETAS’ Howarth.

“All major OEMs and Tier One suppliers are fully on-board with the concept and the advantages of model-based design, but some companies have invested more than others in making model-based design a standard practice all the way from design to code,” he said. The main reason, according to Howarth, is the cost-benefit ratio. “The investment required can be large, and if the benefit cannot be realized in the near future – on a current program – some OEMs elect to delay it.”

Howarth said modeling standards such as MAAB (The MathWorks Automotive Advisory Board) and MISRA-C (Motor Industry Software Reliability Association – C programming language) for automatic code generators are becoming increasingly important as companies try to curb costs. “This is critical for containing validation and execution costs for production-intensive programs,” he said.

AUTOSAR investigations are underway as companies try to leverage standardization to reduce cost while defining the future of software development. “The ultimate goal is an efficient, distributed, hardware-independent process, with increased use of automatic production code generation tools for new programs,” Howarth said.

Preassembled implementations

QNX Software Systems recently introduced QNX CAR, an application development framework that leverages technology from QNX and suppliers in its ecosystem to speed automakers’ time to market.

Automotive product marketing manager Andy Gryc said QNX CAR offers preassembled reference implementations that allow customers to skip integration and work immediately on product development and differentiation. The first two implementations are a digital instrument cluster and a multi-node infotainment system.

Gryc said QNX CAR should “eliminate the time-consuming bottleneck” of silicon and software integration. It reduces the upfront engineering needed for a prototype system and applies charges only to those projects that go into production. A developer portal provides source code to QNX products, technical resources, forums, and the ability to track new features in real time. The framework supports ARM, Power, SH, and x86 silicon architectures provided by vendors including Freescale, Renesas, Nvidia, Fujitsu, and Intel.

Last fall NEC Electronics, KPIT Cummins Infosystems, and ETAS GmbH formed a collaboration to facilitate development of AUTOSAR-compliant systems by combining NEC V850 microcontrollers, KPIT communications control middleware and runtime environment, and ETAS’ ASCET automotive C-code development tool and INTECRIO prototyping platform.

NEC Electronics will develop and market AUTOSAR-compliant MCAL microcontroller driver software for 30 products in its 32-bit V850 F Series and one V850E/PH03 MCU with an embedded FlexRay controller. KPIT will produce software to run on the NEC MCUs, and ETAS will offer software development tools to work with both the NEC MCUs and the KPIT modules.

Custom-tailored tools

The Automotive Electronics Division of Bosch uses a suite of custom-tailored tools according to Jerry Gohl, director of engineering. Bosch uses a customized version of ENOVIA MatrixOne for electronic hardware product lifecycle management (PLM).

“MatrixOne allows the design engineer to choose components that have been tested and released by Bosch’s quality organization for use in ECU manufacturing,” Gohl said. “The use of released components helps ensure the reliability, manufacturability, and cost of the ECU.”

Schematic entry and printed circuit board (PCB) layout are performed with Zuken’s CR-5000 toolset. Gohl said that when the design is complete, the PLM tool is used to transfer data to SAP for the manufacturing of the PCB assembly. The automated transfer reduces lead time and eliminates the potential for error due to manual entry.”

Continental AG plans to replace four different electronic design systems with Zuken’s CR-500, which provides system design and analysis, constraints management, concurrent FPGA and PCB design, PCB layout and verification, high-speed and EMC analysis, and production preparation, plus a parts library manager, documentation system, and an Internet-accessible components library. CR-5000 also supports co-design and co-verification with mechanical, electrical, and thermal design systems.

There is a healthy cost involved in migrating from four different electronic design systems to one, according to Stan Nowiki, NAFTA regional competency manager at Continental, but he said that standardizing will ultimately lower development costs. One factor is the cost of supporting four different design libraries. “Feature content is going through the roof,” Nowiki said. “Mandates from customers to use specific design tools are not as strong as they used to be because there is more effort being placed now on what features cost.”

Also placing more emphasis on a single vendor, TATA Autocomp Systems is expanding its deployment of Mentor Graphics’ CHS electrical/wire harness design tools. It uses the Capital Harness tool. “CHS is the most powerful vehicle electrical design platform available,” said TATA Autocomp general manager Sanjay Srivastava. He added that many of his firm’s customers also use CHS. “Native design data compatibility combined with comprehensive data exchange and integrity checking ensures a robust environment for design service businesses.”

Companies Mentioned:

Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com)

ARM (www.arm.com)

AVL (www.avl.com)

Bosch Automotive Electronics North America (www.bosch.us)

ENOVIA MatrixOne (www.3ds.com/products/enovia)

ETAS (www.etas.com)

Freescale Semiconductor (www.freescale.com)

Fujitsu (www.fujitsu.com)

Intel (www.intel.com)

KPIT Cummins (www.kpitcummins.com)

LDRA Technology (www.ldra.com)

The MathWorks (www.mathworks.com)

Mentor Graphics (www.mentor.com)

Microsoft (www.microsoft.com)

NEC Electronics (www.necel.com)

Nvidia (www.nvidia.com)

QNX (www.qnx.com)

Renesas Technology (www.renesas.com)

SAP (www.sap.com)

Synopsys (www.synopsys.com)

TATA Autocomp (www.tacogroup.com)

Telelogic (www.telelogic.com)

Vector CANtech (www.vector.com)

Zuken (www.zuken.com)

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