With 50% of breakdowns and 70% of differentiating features occurring in software technology, software facilitation has become a critical issue for the auto industry.
INTECS, one of the leading European firms in the design and implementation of high tech electronic systems for the automotive, aerospace, transportation, defense and telecommunications industries, has responded to the need by offering electronic control unit (ECU) software development, validation and process and safety consulting for applications from engine control to electrical braking and body computers to dashboards.
The software components are designed and implemented according to the applicable automotive recommendations and reference standards. Founded in 1974, INTECS is an associate member of the GENIVI Alliance, a premium member of AUTOSAR, as well as a leader in Automotive SPICE. The latter launched an initiative to work with major auto manufacturers to develop a common framework for the assessment of suppliers in the automotive industry, called the Automotive SPICE Process Assessment Model. AUTOSAR is a partnership of automotive OEMs, Tier1 suppliers and tool vendors whose objective is to create and establish open standards for automotive E/E architectures that will provide a basic infrastructure for all application domains.
INTECS also provides process consulting to its customers which are bombarded by dozens of Automotive SPICE assessments as the race for automotive standards for software increases. This includes CMMI and Automotive SPICE process improvement, integrated safety processes, quality management and software engineering concepts and tools.
INTECS has increased its investment in automotive technology, using some of its model-based expertise from the space and avionics domains. “This is because the automotive industry needs a deeper ‘industrialization’ in order to reach more flexibility and faster ‘cycle-time’. Staged testing is key and we are bringing all our excellence in Verification & Validation, whether it be model-in-the-loop, software-in-the-loop or hardware-in-the-loop setting. We are also expanding our competence on more CASE tools in order to create a strong competitive advantage for us and our clients,” says Massimo Mannori, general manager at INTECS.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Mannori how the positioning of INTECS as a hub for automotive electronic equipment validation was working.
Mannori: We believe our strategy is paying off. Automotive is the most demanding industry on electronics due to four major driving forces: innovation, complexity, cost and time-to-market. Therefore, revolution and not just evolution is needed in automotive electronics, and this is happening through Model-based-engineering, AUTOSAR, and ISO/DIS 26262. Mastering all that, INTECS is emerging as a key facilitator across the whole development lifecycle and specifically on validation and assessments. We validate the process at OEMs and Tier1s across Europe in all types of road vehicles. We run project design reviews on behalf of OEMs, in order to check quality, safety and timelines. We validate Tier1 products at system and software level, in both traditional and model-in-the-loop approach. We also master all major tools and frameworks and develop our own debugging products.
AI: What are some of the issues that need to be addressed in this sector?
Mannori: AUTOSAR, as a standard architecture, is the main driver of the value chain deconstruction that the OEMs are actively seeking. This way they may develop their own software, re-use it across many models, as well as buy modules from Tier1 that can re-use (and re-sell) those modules across many OEMs. Software-as-a-product is part of the revolution taking place in the automotive industry. But that comes of course with a tough liability issue. Conformance Testing Authority and Suite for Basic Software (BSW) is slowly being put in place, but that’s really only the beginning; the real challenge will be doing that for the application, i.e. for the Software Components (SWC) and their models.
AI: How does INTECS deal with the challenges of hard-real-time software systems and their dependability?
Mannori: We apply dedicated lifecycle processes and consider real time impact from requirements, from engineering and software architectural design up to system testing on the target in real operational conditions. We look with interest at AUTOSAR real-time upgrade pushed by ATESST and EAST-ADL2 and also to compositionality. This is a key issue for AUTOSAR, and INTECS is addressing it as prime of CHESS, a pan-European ARTEMIS project, where we consider how non-functional requirements like real-time and safety constraints of a component, say a SWC, may or may not be preserved in the “composed” system.
AI: Similarly, how do you manage to meet the demand for dependable safety critical systems?
Mannori: We rely on our Avionics/levelA and Railway/SIL4 heritage on system-level hazard, fault-tree and FMECA analysis. We adopt robust architectural solutions like 2oo3 voting and diversity as well as techniques like protective programming and code/requirements coverage. INTECS is also a leader in formal methods and model checking; however, as always in electronics, the most important factor is a sound and robust safety process. We are already mastering the new ISO/DIS 26262 and may add that support tools like Medini Analyze from Berlin-based iKV are also extremely helpful in targeting zero-recalls and zero-faults in future “computers-on-wheels”.
AI: What are some of the challenges in automotive software today?
Mannori: Unfortunately, there are already some AUTOSAR back-compatibility issues and the most complete version, AUTOSAR 4.0, is still not widely used. That means that the Basic Software modules market is still not “liquid”, and that modules/tools, due to cost and technological complexity, tend to be an obstacle rather than a facilitator. However difficult the new business model of software-as-a-product may seem, OEMs will keep pushing it and the open ARTOP framework could be of some help.
Another specific challenge is the consumer electronics in the Infotainment area, where the automotive industry has been lagging. The industry is now accelerating this technology; and in the future we will see the whole spectrum of solutions, from the mobile-phone-only to the docking station with protocol interface (e.g. TomTom in Fiat500), to a built-in solution with GENIVI as open middleware and Android (e.g. Continental AutoLinQ) as open application ecosystem. Having said that, we believe that it is vital to have controllable and maintainable “Automotive-grade” systems in this area that cannot be totally detached by the other electronics systems in the car, aside from flexibility and upgradeability.
AI: What are some of the new technologies INTECS is working on currently?
Mannori: We are focusing our efforts on the “deconstructed” AUTOSAR architecture which will be more flexible, but also harder to debug. We have developed an ad-hoc host tool, “DLT Analyzer”, together with its run-time counterpart, designed to collect and analyze log and trace information from an AUTOSAR-based vehicle. The tool will be useful both for R&D and post-sales departments. Our “DLT Analyzer” will support verbose and non-verbose mode, run-time configurations, TCP-IP, CAN, UDS services, FIBEX standard and various graphical plug-ins. DLT Analyzer is available for the ARTOP framework as an Eclipe plug-in. We are also working at our own “Conformance Testing Suite” in order to support Basic Software qualification but also to work side by side with OEMs and Tier1s in the development and acceptance of their Software Components. Verification and validation across the whole ECU stack is INTECS core business and we believe we are building something really innovative.
Last but not least, we are working on some interesting micro controller abstraction layers (MCALs), and we are also investigating multi-core based solutions for powertrain and safety-critical applications.