CPUTech is now offering its SystemLab PS system for automotive and off-highway vehicle control simulations, it announced at Convergence 2008. First developed for the U.S. Army’s Bradley armored vehicle program, the company believes automotive engineers will benefit from its speed and ability to model systems with high fidelity.
“The problem we see with the traditional way vehicle control systems are developed is that requirements are specified by an OEM, then given to the suppliers. The suppliers develop their system components and come back six to nine months later with prototypes. These are then pieced together and tested. When the whole [control] system does not work, there is little visibility into what is not working,” explained Robert Beanland, Vice President of Marketing for CPUTech. He goes on to explain that issues could include any individual ECU, interactions between ECUs, or even cabling. The process also leads to vertical development within technical "silos," rather than a balanced, integrated approach.
According to Beanland, SystemLab PS simulates the entire vehicle control system down to the smallest components; enables fast, real-time simulation at the actual speed of the hardware; and provides visibility into all aspects of the control system. “You can see and track in real time any signal, any memory, any register, any processor or controller, and any line of code,” he said. “Typically, the most difficult bugs in a system of systems are those that involve interaction of multiple systems. Testing individual components or testing separately from software will not identify these bugs.” SystemLab PS also allows developers to inject faults into the system to determine robustness and tolerance.
While many today expect a hardware-independent solution for simulation—software that runs on virtually any computing platform—CPUTech opted to provide its SuperQ X3 specialized hardware in an integrated solution. Component models, such as ECUs and busses, are contained in the SystemLab software. Libraries of such models make for easier system development, including many components available from CPUTech. SystemLab PS hosts object-level code, so users can model proprietary real-time operating systems (RTOS) as well as most commercial versions. Why real-time? “Real-time performance speeds the product development process by speeding the identification of problems sooner,” said Beanland. While the server needs to host an entire vehicle model—a memory-intensive proposition—Beanland believes from his experience that three to five individual automotive systems could be stored in a single server.
He also believes CPUTech’s system eases collaboration through its client-server architecture. This breaks down the silos. While the fast server resides in a central location, clients can be distributed geographically—within an organization or at supplier locations. IP is protected through "black box" system models. There is an option to hide details of the models from unauthorized viewing. The system currently also accepts Simulink models created in The Mathworks software.
Beanland also described near-term upgrades to make it more applicable to the mass automotive market. Such upgrades include better AUTOSAR interfacing and more third-party software integrations such as the current Simulink.
There will be challenges as well as benefits to using this level of detailed simulation, as with any new technology. Managing an increased level of detail will require more configuration management. Existing product development processes may need adjusting to create and simulate detailed control system models earlier in the cycle. All parties may need to trust that IP will indeed be protected. “Our goal ultimately is to not change anything an OEM might be doing now. Rather, we want to fill in the gaps what we think they are looking for—very high-fidelity, high-performance system simulations with complete visibility earlier in the process,” said Beanland.