Auto Electronics

Ensuring In-Vehicle Communication Quality Measures

For road vehicles operated in North America, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) collects consumer-reported defects caused by the failure modes. As of March 27, 2008, ODI cumulative database compiled more than 70,000 effective recalls and 668,660 complaints linked to road vehicles purchased in North America. The information archived in this database dates back to 1949 and shows an increasing trend in the number of complaints and recalls during the past decade. In fact, 28.75% of historical North American recalls occurred for those vehicles produced during the 1990s. Vehicles produced during the 2000s have accounted for 30.50 % of recalls.

Recalls damage OEMs in terms of immediately realized incurred expenses and negative publicity. In fact, negative customer satisfaction may have an even greater long-term impact. Surmounting complaints additionally outline patterns of negative customer satisfaction that negatively impact brand and model reputation for years to come.

Thus, the increased complexity of electronics, limited resources, reduced time plans, and higher quality requirements has developed into one of the industries biggest challenges to manage. Identifying, understanding, and correcting root causes of errors are critical to ensuring the highest levels of system reliability. The time pressure and resource constraints are prohibitive against the detection and correction of issues that may compromise the market's perception and the product success. Efficient use of test time is critical.

Additionally, an automotive product development is such a widely distributed process that errors can be incorporated from various compounding aspects of the process and sub-processes, including design, implementation, and testing. Not only must errors be identified, but isolating root causes and solving these issues is a distributed process. This makes testing the most critical stage in product development for enabling protection against underlying costly failure modes. Testing must be deterministic, yielding reproducible test results.

Agilent Technologies' solutions confront the reliability-time-resource challenge through simplified test configuration methods and automatic identification of risks and failures. Pre-defined network debugging algorithms are used for evaluating measurements covering a majority of most standard test plans, ultimately enabling better use of time for debugging of serious issues. Immediate comprehensive testing can be achieved through the use of intuitively configurable test systems that leverage existing database definitions and test plan descriptions. Standardized testing algorithms are automatically adapted to the unique timing requirements of each selected system and provide reliable results with a higher level of protection from human-induced errors.

The scope of standard communication testing covers test procedures for measuring adherence to the specification for definitions pertaining to: communication data definitions, communication timing, gateway performance, functional response timing, network management, diagnostics, physical layer reliability, and failure recovery. Some of the specific test procedures include:

  • power mode testing;
  • communication testing;
  • gateway testing;
  • network management testing;
  • diagnostic response and sensitivity;
  • physical layer testing; and
  • EMC testing.

Controlling risks and ensuring higher product reliability can be achieved through test tools designed for identification and isolation of communication issues. Providing efficient configuration methods and incorporating the knowledge of experienced test engineers, enables the tool to provide detailed analysis of isolated “interesting data,” identifying problem sources, and recommending possible solutions. The goal of a test tool should be measured in the additional manpower it brings to a testing team.


Cary Brown is a technical marketing manager with Agilent Technologies' Automotive team. He has 10 years experience working in the automotive industry with international experience focused on improving system design methodologies, network debugging and test tools solutions.

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