Dr. Herbert Hanselmann, president and CEO of dSpace sees a real need for electronics testing to help reduce OEM warranty costs.
Today’s vehicles have anywhere from 40 to 70 electronic control units (ECU) running everything from powertrain components to power windows. It’s critical that all of these ECUs work in harmony with each other or vehicle problems arise, creating irritated customers and recalls.
dSPACE, headquartered in Paderborn, Germany, a small town about three hours north of Frankfurt via motorway, is in the business of providing products that are used to develop, test and validate not just single ECUs, but entire vehicle electronic architectures.
dSPACE boxes can be found in the test vehicles of just about every OEM in the world and since 2001, it has been in the business of building full vehicle HIL (Hardware-in-the- Loop) simulators, like the one built for Audi’s HIL simulator uses 10 racks of simulation tools that can monitor 40 ECUs in a network of four CAN, 10 LIN 2,000 I/O pins and 7,000 signals, running 24/7.
dSPACE products have also been used to develop BMW’s active steering, Continental Teves’ ESP II and brake-by-wire systems for TRW. Commercial truck and bus manufacturer MAN used dSPACE’s RapidPrototyping tool to develop a diesel particulate filter that reduced emissions by 90 percent. 80 percent of the code was automatically coded using dSPACE’s code generator.
Automotive Industries talked with Herbert Hanselmann, dSPACE CEO, president and founder.
Q. What role does dSPACE play in the development of electronic architectures and components?
A. We accelerate their developments and we prove their developments. We don’t do their developments. They have to do those themselves. We’re not an engineering development company. But, if we allow the OEMs to develop things quicker, they develop more and the complexities go up faster. The issue today is to manage complexity. If you don’t manage complexity you get software problems.
Q. Do you see a growth in the use of dSPACE products in the reduction of emissions?
A. It is used for that purpose, but I have a hard time to say how much it is. We do a lot of testing systems for powertrain, but to what extent are they used specifically for emissions related purposes or general purposes, like, is my injection right or the turbocharger wastegate control right, that sort of thing. I cannot say. I can say powertrain is the biggest thing.
Q. Is that where you’re seeing the most growth, in powertrain development?
A. It’s difficult to say actually, right now, because we see a lot of other things coming up like driver assistance systems and chassis control systems are getting stronger. So I hesitate to say that right now, from now on, powertrain will have the most growth. I do expect it in other areas. But from the volume, powertrain is the biggest part.
Q. You said that GM developed its fuel cell vehicles using your products. Are dSPACE tools being used to develop any other hybrid/electric and fuel cell vehicles?
A. Yes, Ford has developed the Hybrid Escape using our prototyping system and also using our simulators.
Q. So these tools work just as well for developing fuel cell powertrains as well as gasoline and diesel powertrains?
A. Yes, because it’s all control functions. Control function is kind of neutral. How you describe the control function and how it actually controls, that’s application-specific.
Q. You say that German manufacturers buy ECUs from many different suppliers creating many integration problems. Have your tools helped them to be able to do things this way without all of the problems?
A. I have to say that this is kind of a quick-fix remedy for them. They didn’t go and buy these systems from different suppliers because they knew that we can help them overcome the problem. They did it, now they have the problems and now they have to overcome it.
Q. If they bought all of their ECUs from the same supplier would dSPACE still be that involved?
A. There still has to be integration testing. I can’t talk about it but we are talking to one supplier who’s in a particular situation of supplying a large number of ECUs to one particular OEM and he’s now talking to us about using large simulators from us to make sure that his ECUs will be fine with the OEM.
Q. So is testing and validation moving from the OEMs into the supply chain?
A. The OEMs would like that, but it’s difficult.
Q. dSPACE products reduce development time. Will AUTOSAR standards further reduce development time?
A. The development time for the things that we are talking about will not change. It will be the same with or without AUTOSAR. But AUTOSAR will bring more usability and less development projects for a certain function. Because if it’s reusable, it’s not necessary to develop the same thing three times in slightly different variations. The other big push in AUTOSAR is the ability to concentrate on combining functions into the ECUs without being locked in, that this operation can only go with that ECU because that supplier supplies the system. And it will increase quality because of reuse. In terms of development time, I would not see that much change.
Q. So it will be lower cost, higher quality and the ability to drive systems into lower-priced vehicles?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. Is there a concern that the commoditization of electronics will reduce profits?
A. You’re absolutely right. There are many suppliers who would like to have it like this. You know in AUTOSAR there are a certain number of suppliers. And among the founding members are Siemens VDO and Bosch. They are advanced and they know what’s coming and they know if they don’t work in that direction something will happen anyway, without them. So they take the lead. And they also are prepared for that sort of thing. I remember hearing Siemens VDO people speaking maybe three or four years ago, saying that they are preparing for sharing software functions. They are preparing for business models where software functionality is not necessarily bound anymore to their own control units. So Siemens positioned themselves already for that. In other words they say, “We do it with you (the OEMs) and we expect first business.”