Auto Electronics

Meeting the Challenge of Increasing Complexity in Electronics

The world of product development is becoming increasingly integrated. Our goal is to manage the increasing complexity in the design of Chrysler Group products while reducing cost, improving quality, increasing content and functionality, pursuing innovation and bringing it to market quicker.

One of the ways we're meeting the challenge is with model-based development in our electrical engineering group. It offers us a unique opportunity to succeed in this complex environment.

Nowhere are systems more integrated than in a vehicle's electrical components. During the design and development of cabin electrical features and audio and telematics, our engineers are applying model-based development to manage complexity and bring new features to market with increasing speed and ever-improving quality and lower costs.

With our new tools, the different possibilities that could occur in our customers' experience can be duplicated on screen. In addition to working on stand-alone features such as door locks; modeling engineers integrate these features into modules that can hold up to 500 to 600 mapped electrical signals each. Engineers can test how the features function together to ensure quality.

We've amassed a library of features developed using model-based development, which has allowed us to make gains in quality. With our common architectures and our goal to be common between vehicle lines, one feature, such as door locks, is common on all Chrysler Group models. If an issue arises or a change is made to improve the feature, the adjustments are made across all vehicles at the same time. With a core library of time-tested, production-level features certified for quality and reliability, we no longer reinvent the wheel with each new vehicle program.

We use behavior-modeling technology to meet the needs of our customers in the field of automotive telematics, as we strive to be on the cutting edge of the next “big thing” in vehicle assistance, infotainment, mobile commerce, navigation and tele-diagnostics.

Every day, potential new features and services are being developed for our customers. The opportunities in telematics are endless, as well as the challenges. There are many questions to ask, such as should the new feature be embedded in the vehicle or in a customer's portable device? What common standard interfaces need to be developed? How do we provide a common user interface that is fast, direct and safe to use in-vehicle? Is it user-friendly?

Entertainment systems based on digital mass storage are becoming well established and will be a major factor in telematics for the next 10 to 15 years, and portable devices are changing the game. Do our customers want fixed navigation in the vehicle? Or would they prefer something portable? What about their PDAs? Can we provide innovative and inexpensive ways to allow our customers to store portable, personal information in their vehicles?

Telematics includes many of the most complex systems available in vehicles, and the rate of complexity continues to outpace other vehicle systems. The explosive growth in telematics has presented quality challenges.

As an industry, we've made good progress with improving quality. Overall vehicle quality (as measured by J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey) has improved by more than 32% over the last six years. Over the same period, electrical components have shown a somewhat smaller quality improvement rate of more than 20%.

Customers want their features to work right the first time, seamlessly, transparently and intuitively. Our behavior modeling tools provide a means of simulating different customer situations before we create the first prototype and are proving to be invaluable to us in designing these systems for real world use.

Model-based development and behavior modeling tools are helping us to manage the increasing electronic complexities in our vehicles and have cut development time from five years to 24 to 36 months.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Mattingly is vice president of electrical/electronics engineering at Chrysler Group.

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