Can you imagine your life without challenges?

  • 30-Apr-2013 08:30 EDT
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Kevin Kott, President, dSPACE Inc.

On occasion, many of us become overloaded and wish for fewer challenges—especially the ones that are thrust upon us. We like the ones that we seek out for personal fulfillment—like bowling that 300 game, or golfing sub-par, or achieving a personal best time in a 5k or 10k race, or achieving a target fundraising level for a worthwhile charity. But the reality is that challenges, whether chosen or imposed, are life’s way of sharpening our skill sets. As we struggle, improvise, and eventually meet challenges, we become better prepared for the inevitable next challenge. It’s the law of evolution.

In the engineering community we love challenges. Challenge is our middle name. Not only do we become smarter and more proficient as we achieve challenging goals, but we improve the world around us. We produce better products for ourselves and our neighbors, but we also innovate technologies that can be reused for future challenges. Innovation today is a team sport. Innovations in one industry spark innovations in another.

Innovations in the semiconductor industry have made high-end computing power cheap and packaged for the transportation environment. This computing technology has in turn fueled innovation in feature-rich content and has created market competition that transformed vehicles into “computers on wheels (or tracks).”

So, what is our future? What will we, in the commercial vehicle/off-highway industry, innovate? And for what challenges will we innovate?

In a keynote speech at the 2012 dSPACE Midwest User Conference, Paul Menig, CEO of Tech-I-M and formerly an engineering leader at General Electric, Eaton, and Daimler, envisioned a future of highly automated, fuel-efficient, and perfectly safe vehicles.

Of course, these are not new challenges and significant progress has already been achieved. However, as Paul envisaged, much more can be achieved as new technology appears. The “computers on wheels” can and will transform the transportation industry.

However, innovation to meet growing customer expectations and regulations is not cheap. How can innovation be sustainable in our worldwide competitive environment?

dSPACE is taking the cost-of-innovation challenge seriously. As a provider of tools to develop mechatronic systems, we are supporting the following focus areas for mechatronic innovations:

• Increasing efficiency in product development,

• Reducing risks in product development,

• Reducing cost of tooling, and 

• Increasing the talent pool.

Over the recent past, model-based design (MBD) using the “V-Cycle” has become a standard method for our customers to manage increasing complexity.

However, complexity growth is not slowing and development projects are growing in size and cost to ensure quality end points. With such dramatic growth, efficiency of the process is a critical issue. The cost of fixing errors is considerably less when an error is found early in development, as opposed to later, or even worse when the product is in the hands of the end customer.

Earlier error detection has always been the goal for embedded software development. Similarly, being able to use consistent technology throughout the development process with an increased amount of simulation has been a cost avoidance goal for many of our customers.

We are addressing this challenge with the introduction of our new virtual validation technology portfolio, VEOS, that will accelerate validation and verification tasks to much earlier phases of development and reduce dependency on availability of hardware components. We have developed this technology ground-up to support the same tool chain that customers are using in current development processes for virtual simulation and to be able to perform many previously impossible tasks prior to hardware prototypes being available.

Current solutions for product life-cycle management and application life-cycle management have proven ineffective in providing granular management of MBD/development specific artifacts. We need a more nuanced approach. To address this challenge and help reduce risk in development, dSPACE has introduced SYNECT, a data-management solution focused specifically on MBD. It helps synchronize and connect all the development process artifacts and work products to create traceability of requirements and gain efficiency through reuse.

Additionally, we are introducing a new line of hardware-in-the-loop simulators called SCALEXIO, with significant software configurability to reduce the cost of repurposing test systems for newer programs—thus protecting customer investments and lowering tooling costs.

Finally, the toughest challenge is finding and nurturing the engineering talent for innovation. We are taking a very proactive approach to help the industry address this challenge through our active support of various STEM initiatives. We proudly support and sponsor General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy’s EcoCAR Challenge, a collegiate engineering competition that has produced hundreds of engineers with skills compatible for the latest transportation product development processes. Similarly, we are also supporting the SAE Formula Hybrid competition, PACE, satellite development, robotics, and other academic initiatives that encourage and educate a new generation of engineers.

The challenges discussed here represent a few of the many faced by all of us in the transportation industry. But remember, the more challenges we overcome, the better we evolve.

Indeed, it is a very exciting time to be an engineer in this industry with massive technical transformation in its products. dSPACE is proud to be in lock-step with the commercial vehicle/off-highway industry in addressing these challenges and in supporting our customers to achieve the goals of an ultra-efficient, clean, and automated tomorrow.

Kevin Kott, President, dSPACE Inc., wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.

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