New design tool for AUTOSAR infrastructure

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System architects frequently face many conflicting requirements that must be reconciled to create an efficient distributed system.

Mentor Graphics is the late­st tool provider to support AUTOSAR, rolling out the first of a suite of products that helps designers move from architectural exploration to implementation. The family will help engineers weigh the trade-offs and make decisions early in the design cycle.

Mentor’s Volcano Vehicle Systems Architect (VSA) facilitates system and embedded software design throughout vehicles. It spans the entire model-based-engineering design cycle, bridging the gap between logical functional design and implementation in the electronic architecture.

“VSA manages the logical architecture, software components, and software component mapping,” said Rick Pier, Marketing Manager for Mentor’s System Level Engineering Division. “It looks at the ECU loads to see if there’s enough bandwidth to run everything.”

That should help speed the acceptance of the standard, which maintains strong support despite a slow uptake. As the economic downturn slows the transition to new technologies, analysts note that improved tools can help engineers analyze AUTOSAR programs to ensure that they provide real benefits instead of becoming science projects.

“There is a danger that the technology becomes the master, rather than the servant, and the original aims like saving money, time, and effort are lost along the way,” said Ian Riches, Director of Automotive Electronics for Strategy Analytics. “The severe economic crisis is refocusing minds on those goals.”

Proponents of the standard note that AUTOSAR makes it simpler for Tier 1s to design modules for any automaker, which also makes it simpler for automakers to switch suppliers. Using the standard will also let Tier 1s design one module that can work in a range of applications.

“Instead of having 30 different types of ECUs, suppliers and OEMs can go to, say, five types of ECUs,” Pier said.

Over the past couple years, tool providers have unveiled a steady stream of tools for AUTOSAR. Many design tool makers like the standard because it lets them design to a single end point instead of creating modules that address the multitude of proprietary approaches.

“If there’s no standard, the tools aren’t scalable,” Pier said. He noted that using model-based tools lets engineers explore trade-offs before many decisions are made instead of examining those trade-offs after physical prototypes are built.

The Volcano VSA is the first of a series of tools aimed at system design in the automotive industry. Modules now address CAN (controller area network), FlexRay, and LIN (local interconnect network) protocols, with a Ethernet module in development. The tool can help engineers avoid adding yet another network to a car.

­“We can do an analysis of the bus and show how people can get 80 to 90% of the capacity of the bus,” Pier said.

In addition to addressing design with a standard, Volcano also implements industry standards. Mentor uses UML (­Unified Modeling Language) to generate source code, leveraging one of the standards used to create AUTOSAR. Mentor also uses Eclipse, an open source standard for the creation and management of software.

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