Issue: Nov 2008


FlexRay for future generation vehicles



AI speaks to Rick Lotoczky, product line manager (Tools for Networks and Distributed Systems), responsible for FlexRay at Vector CANtech

by Lenny Case

Vector Informatik is the leading producer of software tools and components for networking of electronic systems based on CAN, LIN, FlexRay and MOST as well as a number of CAN-based protocols. Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, the company is a premium member of the FlexRay consortium and has been working at various levels with the consortium from its very beginning in the year 2000. Vector has subsidiaries in Japan, France, Sweden, Korea and the United States. Worldwide, customers in the automotive industry rely heavily on solutions and products from the Vector Group. 

Vector’s portfolio of FlexRay hardware and software tools is widely used throughout the automotive industry and supports the entire development cycle of FlexRay networks and ECUs – beginning with tools for the design of networks and communication databases and continuing with software for analysis, simulation, test and diagnostics of networks and ECUs. Last but not least, embedded software components for most micro controllers are also available, a Vector spokesperson explained. 

After using in-house J1850 solutions during the mid-90s, Chrysler, Ford and GM encouraged Vector to become their primary source for embedded communications software. Today, this nearly 10-year-old partnership is still in place. “Many of our customers recognize the ever-growing business resource requirements to support the wide spectrum of technical solutions that comprise in-vehicle networking development. Today, this includes CAN, LIN, FlexRay, MOST, FNOS, and GMLAN; tomorrow it will also include AUTOSAR and other technology advancements. Vector is moving to provide a wider range of solutions to address these growing industry needs,” said Bruce Emaus, President of Vector CANtech Inc, in an earlier interview to AI. 

“For future generation vehicles, many observers agree that the use of FlexRay will be more widespread. Today, only BMW and Audi use the deterministic and fault tolerant system in production vehicles. According to sources in the automotive electronics industry, the European automotive industry will continue to pioneer the system, introducing FlexRay-equipped vehicles in the next few years. Japanese and even Chinese OEMs are not far behind. In North America, interest is increasing and most OEM’s are watching these advancements closely.” says the company.
“Several OEMs & Tier 1s are looking at FlexRay using AUTOSAR to help them ramp up their evaluation activities. We also see non-automotive customers exploring AUTOSAR and FlexRay as part of an internal evaluation of their next generation protocols. Vector is currently delivering AUTOSAR to three OEMs in Europe for production projects and to a growing number of OEM’s and Tier 1’s in North America who are increasing their level of evaluation. ” said Emaus.

Automotive Industries spoke to Rick Lotoczky, product line manager (Tools for Networks and Distributed Systems), responsible for FlexRay at Vector CANtech.

AI: How would you describe Vector’s role in the FlexRay consortium?
Vector is a Premium Member in the FlexRay Consortium and also participates in working groups of the FlexRay Consortium.

AI: How have your FlexRay-enabled solutions and products fared among OEMs?
Here in the US, we have been successful with our tools such as CANalyzer, for bus analysis and CANoe, for development and testing. We are the only company who offers an integrated solution for systems designed around multiple bus architectures such as CAN and FlexRay. Most OEM’s like the idea of a seamless transition in the application and operation of their network development tools. This reduces the learning curve for their staff and maximizes the ROI achieved using Vector products. Furthermore, close cooperation with our customers enables us to quickly convert customer requirements into new tool features.

AI: Please tell us a little about the FlexRay-based solutions/products Vector is working on. 

Vector’s tools are familiar to automotive engineers because they have used them in previous (e.g. CAN) projects. FlexRay support is so thoroughly integrated into our tools that even novice users can easily make the transition from one bus technology to another. 

In instances where this integration was impractical, we simply designed new tools. For example, the design of FlexRay network architectures and the associated data communication is done using DaVinci Network Designer FlexRay. This tool was specially created for the needs of FlexRay systems. Both CANalyzer and CANoe are standard tools used in the development of automotive communication networks. They were extended with some special features for FlexRay analysis, simulation and test. For example, CANoe RT (Real Time) was added to support hard, real-time situations such as those required for hardware-in-the-loop simulations of small to mid-size FlexRay systems. Another big advantage is that an engineer can use these familiar tools for analyzing, simulating and testing vehicle communication simultaneously on multiple bus technologies such as FlexRay, CAN and LIN. Such common practices are fully achievable with very little effort. 

Vector’s calibration tool, CANape, was the first and is still the only tool which supports the XCP calibration protocol on FlexRay. 

Vectors’ diagnostics development tools (e.g. CANdito) also support a physical interface to FlexRay in addition to the standard interfaces to K-line and CAN.
Vector offers various hardware interfaces to access the FlexRay bus. These range from PCMCIA cards to PCI cards and USB interfaces. Last year, Vector introduced a combined CAN and FlexRay USB interface - the VN7600. 

For physical layer testing, Vector offers the FRstress which is capable of manipulating FlexRay messages and can generate bit distortions within the data streams. 

In addition to our development support products, we also offer embedded software modules for FlexRay that are available for various micro controllers. They consist of both a static and a dynamic part. The latter is generated as a function of user configuration settings. These modules are based on AUTOSAR, thus leveraging the work of the European automotive industry to simultaneously introduce FlexRay and AUTOSAR. 

As you can see - we support our customers in all phases of the development process.

AI: What kind of reaction have your FlexRay-enabled products received in Europe and the rest of the world? 

We have been seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to our tools such as CANoe, CANalyzer and CANape. The primary benefit is twofold. First, is one of cost in that there is only an incremental increase in price to support FlexRay. The customer does not have to buy a completely new tool. Second is the overall integration scheme where more than one bus can be supported by, say CANalyzer or CANoe, without dramatically changing the basic infrastructure.


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