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Semiconductor designers must continue to create, evolve and differentiate silicon solutions that have been the driving force behind new automotive electronics. Going forward, the recipe for continued success also includes customer enablement elements, such as automotive quality run-time software. Companies must also continue to drive industry standards to improve performance and reliability and cut development costs. Freescale, for example, supports CAN, LIN, FlexRay and the AUTomotive Open System Architecture (AUTOSAR™).
Modern vehicles have many advanced features that make them safer, better performing and more environmentally friendly. Stability control, improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and enhanced passenger comfort are examples of features enabled by advanced silicon technology. However, with the rapid expansion of complex silicon in automotive electronics, the formula for success relies more on optimized software than ever before. AUTOSAR is addressing this key aspect. It is an open software architecture standard that has been driven by auto manufacturers, electronic control unit (ECU) suppliers, semiconductor suppliers and tool developers.
Much has been written about AUTOSAR in terms of the concept, the likelihood of success, the technical challenges and other issues. Setting all the debates aside, the reality is that software is becoming a significant factor in overall vehicle quality and software development costs continue to rise. AUTOSAR is an open software architecture standard that is designed to meet the software challenges today and in the future.
With AUTOSAR momentum clearly increasing, there has been a culture change within the software development communities. Software development teams within the ECU suppliers may need to rearrange their priorities. For instance, those skilled in MCU specifics will likely need to migrate up the software food chain to more application-type software development projects. In addition, product development teams may be resistant to converting stable legacy code elements into the new framework. Clearly, change brings about uncertainty, but software optimized by the semiconductor suppliers can assist ECU developers through the transition, easing this cultural migration and helping them realize the advantages of standardization.
Freescale, for instance, is creating AUTOSAR compliant software for 16- and 32-bit MCU product families. The software includes a comprehensive suite of optimized drivers that comprise the microcontroller abstraction layer (MCAL) as well as a real time operating system (RTOS), which is part of the services layer.
By using the optimized software modules provided by semiconductor companies with their silicon products, developers following the AUTOSAR standard can remove driver work from their development schedules and focus on integration and application software development. The goal is to achieve improved cost efficiency, ease of use, reduced development and integration time and improved quality for the automotive ECU supplier.
A close partnership between semiconductor manufacturers and their customers is essential for successful transitioning to the AUTOSAR standard. This can be accomplished in three basic modes of engagement between the silicon and software providers and the customer, depending on that customer’s specific needs:
• Direct interaction with customers that would prefer to only use selected optimized software modules to integrate with their own in-house software
• Indirect interaction with customers that are comfortable engaging with a software provider that offers complete AUTOSAR basic software (BSW), including optimized software components
• Customer-specific engagements where semiconductor and software suppliers can provide integration services, custom development and other professional software development assistance
Denis Griot, Chairman of Freescale EMEA and the company's global automotive marketing lead, comments
"Whichever mode is employed, the goal is the same—providing the expertise and the products that allow developers to embrace AUTOSAR within the shortest possible learning curve. Semiconductor companies with optimized software modules, whether developed in-house or in partnership with a software development company, are key players in the global adoption of the AUTOSAR standard for automakers and Tier one suppliers.