The AUTOSAR standard has seen a slow start, but it looks as if momentum for the interface between hardware and software is starting to grow. A number of electronics suppliers and their tool providers are ramping up, and automakers continue to show support.
AUTOSAR specifications were finished a couple years ago. That set the stage for suppliers to start implementing the standard software architecture, which provides a single interface for hardware suppliers while giving automakers more freedom to switch from one vendor’s hardware to another.
A big benefit for both sides is that costs can be reduced by using the standard, loosely following the trend that drove PC prices downward. Products begun after the standard was finalized are now nearing the introduction phase.
“Next year, we’ll have our first product with AUTOSAR. By 2012-13, close to a quarter of our products will have AUTOSAR compliance,” said Helmut Matschi, President of Division Interior VDO Automotive at Continental.
Automakers note that, along with decreased pricing and more freedom to change suppliers, using a standard eliminates some of the low-level aspects of design. That will let Tier 1 suppliers focus on improving system performance.
“Standards let the Tier 1 suppliers get above these low-level concerns and look at higher aspects of design,” William Mattingly, Vice President of Electrical/Electronics Engineering at Chrysler LLC, said at the SAE 2008 World Congress. He noted that Chrysler is currently determining how it will get re-involved with the AUTOSAR consortium now that it is independent from the Mercedes group that was a founding member.
Wolfgang Ziebart, President of Infineon Technologies AG, added that “AUTOSAR is a very, very good thing at all levels of the value chain. We now have an interface on the hardware instruction layer so we can focus not on the hardware instructions but one level above.”
AUTOSAR got its start in Europe, but it is expected to have an impact worldwide. U.S. automakers endorsed the architecture fairly early in its development, which began in 2003. Japanese companies have devised a related project called Jasper, which is also showing no signs of fading away like many other automotive standardization efforts.
“We have been working on AUTOSAR through Jasper. We have not yet decided on the timing or which systems will be used for an introduction, but I am sure we will introduce compatible products,” said Toyohei Nakajima, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D Co. Ltd.
Automakers and Tier 1 suppliers are not the only ones gearing up. Even though the standard eliminates some aspects of software development, design tools are one of the critical infrastructure components needed for successful implementations. Tool providers are rolling out tools to create the infrastructure.
“Our latest release supports AUTOSAR targets. It lets engineers develop algorithms in SimuLink. Testing algorithms often requires a lot of hand tweaking; our tool automates that,” said Jon Friedman, Transportation Industry Marketing Manager at The MathWorks.
In other aspects of design software, Green Hills Software Inc. development tools are being used by Freescale Semiconductor to develop AUTOSAR-compliant devices. “Developers still need enabling tools like debuggers. They still have to talk to the processors and worry about code size and efficiency,” said Chuck Mallory, District Sales Manager at Green Hills.
Though it is gaining popularity, AUTOSAR is still a young standard that needs further development. One facet is that it does not address the trend to processors with more than one CPU.
“It’s time to use AUTOSAR, but as it’s defined today, it doesn’t take full advantage of multicore processors,” said Marc Osajda, Global Automotive Strategy Manager at Freescale Semiconductor. “The availability of AUTOSAR that takes into account multicore chips is key for the success of multicore architectures."