Design Tools Ensure Component Compatibility, Create Autonomous Driving Tests

Engineers can try out different architectures and links during design. (Elektrobit)

Simulation has become a critical element in design and validation, expanding its reach to nearly every facet of vehicle development. Partnerships and cloud computing are among the techniques being used as tool developers strive to make it easier for programmers and engineers to see how the many elements in vehicle systems interact.

HiL and SiL can be merged using cloud computing, letting design teams try many scenarios early in the process. (Metamoto)

Virtual tools are being used for jobs as diverse as wiring layout to creating virtual roadways for testing autonomous driving systems. Much of the focus in recent years has been on ensuring that everything works well when multiple systems work together. Tools are helping commercial-vehicle designers make significant improvements in overall designs.

“One large OEM determined that going from the existing wiring harness to a new design yielded changes in weight, material costs and maintenance costs; they could save $14,000 per vehicle,” said David Fritz, global technology manager, autonomous and ADAS, at Siemens. “They also realized that with the new architecture, three ECUs would see some delays, so it would be beneficial to combine them.”

Leveraging the cloud

For design teams involved in autonomous projects, a central objective is to get sensors, controller and actuators to work in harmony. Software is becoming a more important element in most designs, but programs still need hardware to make things happen. During development, that often includes linking hardware in the loop (HiL) and software in the loop (SiL) testing.

“More people are seeing the value of programs that connect the dots between HiL and SiL,” said Daniel Schambach, head of design at Metamoto. “Companies will be able to do a lot more in SiL. The cloud can be leveraged to do the work in less time. We’re trying to shorten the time it takes to get to test by letting programmers develop code, then push it over to the cloud to run a test immediately.”

Increasingly, design software suppliers are joining in the ecosystems that are being pulled together so the many vendors involved in advanced vehicle designs can work together more easily. Tool providers are also teaming up with other design software companies to help speed up the development cycle. One example is Elektrobit and Synopsys, which earlier this year announced a collaboration to accelerate automotive electronic systems development using virtual environments.

“The two companies are collaborating to bring together Synopsys Virtualizer Development Kits, Elektrobit operating systems, development and test tools, and complementary expertise to enable pre-silicon and pre-electronic control unit hardware availability and software development,” said Roman Iseler, product manager at Elektrobit. “The combined solution accelerates system testing cycles and enables automotive Tier 1 and OEM companies to transition from physical to virtual system testing.”

Virtual testing

Several systems will be combined to enable autonomous vehicle control. Once they’re combined effectively, they need to be tested on virtual roadways. Virtual tests, which typically precede physical driving tests, can let developers quickly examine many different variants in weather, traffic and road conditions, among other parameters.

Virtual driving scenarios can easily be changed for weather, speed limits and other factors. (Cognata)

Virtual tests make it easier to try these parameters out early in the process, often before all related elements are completed. The complexity of testing many programs that interact in real time often requires partnerships between multiple tool suppliers.

“We make it easy to generate scenarios for edge cases and generate behavioral models that mimic real vehicles on roads, doing large-scale simulations of populated roads,” said Heikki Laine, VP product & marketing, at Cognata. “A big part of what we’re doing through our partnership with Dassault is letting designers test things that are random. They can do that at any time from their desktop environment; they don’t have to wait until all the models are ready for testing. That makes it easier and quicker to test oddball ideas.”

The many systems used in autonomous vehicles often come from different suppliers. These companies work together to provide systems that meet strict OEM requirements. Technical challenges aren’t the only challenges that arise when vehicle makers and their suppliers see how these systems work together. These efforts are often temporary linkups between business rivals.

“We’re serving ecosystem suppliers who sometimes work together and sometimes compete,” Siemens’ Fritz said. “When they’re working together, our cloud interface lets suppliers build system models and upload them to run in the cloud. That way, they’re protected so they don’t have to worry about showing proprietary information. The cloud is an important part of collaboration.”