The E/E architecture is a convergence of domains: electronics hardware, network communications, software applications, and wiring all combine to make up the vehicle architecture. Currently, these domains operate with only limited knowledge of the activities, constraints, and goals of the other domains. This can cause significant problems where these domains interact. For example, several teams within an OEM may be developing software applications for the core ADAS ECU in the vehicle. These teams are organized by feature and work independently. For instance, there will be separate teams for the lane departure, active cruise control, and other applications. In order to ensure flexibility for future updates, a constraint caps the processor utilization for this ECU at around 75%. When each of the teams loads their software onto the ECU, they exceed the utilization cap and even the capabilities of the processor. This happened because each of the teams developed their implementations independently and had no ability to understand the totality of the load on the ECU until it was beyond a critical point in the development process.
Automotive manufacturers and suppliers will need to adopt a new design methodology to handle the interactions between these domains in an environment that is rapidly becoming more complicated. Several major automakers have undertaken major reorganizations to better align with these needs: Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, Daimler, among others. This methodology must ensure tight cross-domain integrations, powerful design automation, and comprehensive data coherency. Such a methodology provides each domain with a system-level context to leverage during domain-specific engineering. With a system-level context, engineers can evaluate design alternatives, root out issues, and achieve higher quality designs in less time.
However, industry challenges are not confined to technology innovation. As a result, the strategy for dealing with the immense and varied challenges of the mobility industry must extend beyond new design solutions. Major OEMs and suppliers alike are realizing that changes to their organizations and business models will lay the foundation for future success. OEMs are investing in increasing their software competency while long-time automotive suppliers are expanding the services they offer to cover the full range of component development, from design through manufacturing. In fact, some suppliers have even demonstrated autonomous shuttle and package delivery platforms. In general, the real challenge comes from scaling and creating profit from a new technology once it has been validated.
The continued expansion of the automotive E/E architecture has made its design more challenging and more critical in the scope of vehicle engineering. All aspects of the E/E architecture occupy a larger role in enabling core vehicle functionalities. As a result, all aspects, from devices like sensors and ECUs to the networks and wiring, have grown in sophistication to meet these increased demands. ECUs have become more powerful to process the data coming in from larger sensor arrays using increasingly capable software. Meanwhile, vehicle networks have to manage the communications in this intricate system of sensors and controllers.
The companies that adapt both their design methodologies and organizational structures to provide the highest quality electrical, electronic, and digital automotive experiences will enjoy the most success in a changing industry.
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About the author:
Doug Burcicki is the automotive director of the Integrated Electrical Systems Division of Mentor, A Siemens Business, responsible for strategy, execution and thought leadership. Prior to joining Mentor in early 2018, Burcicki was vice president of Yazaki North America, where he held several management roles during his 24 years of service. He holds a Master’s Degree in Automotive Engineering from Lawrence Tech University and a BSEE from Wayne State University.