AUTOSAR update comes with signs of adoption

  • 09-Nov-2009 04:53 EST

AUTOSAR will help companies such as Vector CANtech create modules that mesh easily with multiple hardware platforms.

The AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) software standard is undergoing a transition, moving to a new phase as Release 4.0 is unveiled. The change comes as the standard shows strong signs of acceptance in a range of new applications.

The latest release will improve methodology and templates, containing standardized application interfaces for all five vehicle domains: body and comfort, powertrain, chassis, occupant and pedestrian safety, as well as human-machine interface, which includes telematics and multimedia. When it emerges later this year, it will mark the end of Phase II for the standard, which now moves to more selective updates.

It also marks a new phase for the auto industry, which seems to be embracing the software standard as its programming gains importance. AUTOSAR’s adoption comes as the industry is focusing on software as a key differentiator.

As the volume of software in vehicles soars, OEMs are looking at ways to write code more quickly. The standard will help in the transition to automatic code generation, which is replacing hand-written coding.

“The implementation of AUTOSAR is a disruptive change,” said Tom Erkkinen, Embedded Applications Manager for The MathWorks. “When you go to AUTOSAR, you need code to plug into a specific architecture, so why not go to autocoding?”

AUTOSAR lets suppliers and OEMs use the same program on different types of hardware. Standardizing the interfaces between hardware and software lets companies use more standardized modules.

“When you go to anything that’s commercial off the shelf, you gain the advantage because requirements can be set,” said Robert Miller, Product Line Manager for Embedded Software at Vector CANtech Inc. “In networking, something like GMLAN drives suppliers to buy a common stack. AUTOSAR has expanded this further into areas that are common.”

Another benefit is that programmers can spend time writing one good program instead of taking time to create several variations. That will also improve reliability by letting developers employ time-tested software.

“As the AUTOSAR standard becomes more accepted and adopted, software reuse will evolve dramatically, allowing software modules to be reused and exchanged more easily,” said Vivek Jaikamal, Product Marketing Manager for ETAS Inc.

Most predict that simple functions will become commoditized as OEMs and Tier 1s focus on software features that give them a competitive advantage. This plug-and-play approach may open the door for start-ups that can compete in an open marketplace with well-established suppliers.

But it may be a while before that happens. Adoption times have varied, so various versions are being used. That reduces the compatibility that comes from true standardization.

“AUTOSAR is not where the industry would like to have it. Some OEMs use version 2.1; others are going to 3.0,” said Alois Seewald, Global R&D Director and head of TRW’s Safety Integration Team.

Nonetheless, Seewald still predicts that the standard will have solid success. It will be particularly important in safety since many OEMs “have identified safety as the DNA of the car," he said.

These OEMs write some safety code that they want Tier 2 suppliers to integrate, so the software interface has to be precisely defined. The standard will also help as more safety systems are tightly linked to share data.

“We often link our systems with others,” Seewald said. “If the interfaces for steering, braking, seatbelts, etc. are defined with AUTOSAR, it’s easier for everyone.”

The standard may alter the way design teams put systems together. The importance of software and the increasing volume of code may drive architecture to a more centralized approach, particularly in applications such as body and chassis.

“On the master side, the huge complexity drives a demand for reuse,” said Michael Bender, Marketing Manager for LIN and Network Bus at Melexis. “AUTOSAR will be a big factor for complex central modules.”

The standard may also help promote closer relationships between various systems, letting engineers write programs that blend multiple inputs to provide benefits that are not achievable when systems work independently. Without a standard, writing the software that ties these systems together isn’t practical.

“Much focus and time is currently spent on defining the interfaces between the functions and modules considered in the system,” said Dean McConnell, Engineering Director for Continental’s Advanced Driver Assistance program. He cited standardization as a key to combining systems to create a more holistic vehicle: “Software integration is key for a successful implementation for many advanced safety systems.”

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