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One Oil Change and Update my Car to the Latest Software Patch, Please!

Comments(0)Filed under: Infineon, virtual platforms, virtual prototypes, System-Level Design, edaForum, Design Flows, embeded software, Automotive, V-Diagram, Freescael, Bosch, Engine Control Unit, ECU

Since the IEEE Spectrum article "This Car Runs on Code" back in February 2009, my interest in the requirements for software and system-level development in automotive applications has grown quite a bit. And after recently having reviewed in previous blog posts requirements for wireless and industrial applications, automotive seems to be a great next topic.

According to market data provided by dataBeans in July this year, the automotive segment is actually expected to be in 2011 the smallest segment in the $2.1 trillion electronics market. It grows at a 6% CAGR from 2011 to 2016 and is served by a $25 billion semiconductor market, growing at a 9% CAGR.

The 11th EDA Forum in Berlin earlier this year was a good opportunity to better understand automotive. Dr. Erich Biermann, senior vice president of engineering for Bosch Automotive Electronics, gave an interesting talk about "Challenges and Chances for Power and Microelectronics in Automotive." According to Bosch, the worldwide production of 70.9 Million cars in 2010 is expected to grow to 100.6 Million cars in 2015. That means that the average semiconductor content per car is close to $350.

Comparing a couple of studies, Dr. Biermann concluded that volume predictions for alternative drive trains are uncertain at present. As core three drivers for this market he identified the need for cars to be safe, clean and economical. This mirrors the "three zeros" Bosch supplier Freescale outlined earlier this year at the Freescale Technology Forum as "zero defects, zero emission and zero fatalities". The rest of Dr. Biermann's talk focused more on the power electronics aspects in cars, as well as the energy flow in a car.

To understand the impact of software and system-level design, I went back to the proceedings of the EDA Forum and looked at a talk given by Dr. Christian Sebeke, also from Bosch, called "EDA for ‘More than Moore.'" In that talk, Sebeke identified the demand for high performance safety critical system-level design in automobiles. Not unlike other application domains, parts of the system integration, including software, are taken to the next lower level (you can see my previous comments here and here). I really liked the graph he showed at the time outlining the challenges for EDA (see below, Source: Bosch).

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As a result, Sebeke foresaw big challenges for mixed mode design verification, validation, simulation and modeling:

  • Logic synthesis from RTL is available but has to deal with growing complexity, power optimization, feedback loops with layout and formal verification. The equivalent, analog synthesis, is a largely unsolved issue.
  • For digital verification, Dr. Sebeke described a research project called VISION, which combined in a flow from models in Mathworks Simulink to HDL verification, logic synthesis and system integration. For analog mixed signal, automotive has to take into account mixed abstraction levels, and EDA needs to allow mixing languages and simulators, for example with co-simulation.
  • For system-level design the management and conclusion of system-level constraints is important. With the growing control functionality in processors on silicon, software has to be considered as part of the ASIC development process. Specifically, operating systems need to be dealt with at the silicon and ECU level. Dr. Sebeke suggested virtual prototypes as a "unified language" which could be extended to the car level, not only using them for verification and software development at the chip and ECU level, but also for application, user interface and system development. With the support of developments like AutoSAR, EDA could support a seamless designflow from OEMs to Tier 1 providers like Bosch and Tier 2 providers like Freescale, Infineon and Renesas.

So just like in the other application domains I have reviewed so far, it is safe to assume that software and system-level development are critical components for automotive developments as well. Some of the technologies like virtual prototypes have the potential to become key enablers.

Whether and when we will find USB and Ethernet ports at our gas stations to allow us to get the latest software updates for our cars remains to be seen ...

Frank Schirrmeister

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