Serge Leef, general manager of Mentor Graphics’ System-level Engineering Division, said VSA enables an AUTOSAR-based vehicle system design flow from architectural exploration to implementation. He said the technology can improve quality, reliability, and time to market, and provide cost advantages, by facilitating the use of standard interfaces and components based on AUTOSAR.
VSA, the first member of an AUTOSAR product family from Mentor Graphics, focuses on the model-driven design process and allows customers to reduce their reliance on downstream validation and physical prototyping. Leef said automotive companies can achieve substantial cost savings in the development process by moving significant decisions and verification tasks to the front end of the design cycle.
Leef said most automotive application and system debugging is still based on physical prototyping. “Electrical/electronic design flow begins with requirements and must cover architecture design; network, software, and electrical design. When new ECUs are required, IC and PCB development is also undertaken,” he noted.
Mentor addresses physical electrical/wire harness design flow with its CHS Architect family of products. Its new VSA product will address AUTOSAR logical and network design requirements.
According to Leef, the introduction of VSA marks the first time that physical and logical tools have been available in an integrated solution from a single vendor. “It does for software what other modeling tools have done for hardware,” he said.
Leef said engineers can use VSA to design, explore and compare electronic and software architectures. “It allows users to take advantage of ‘correct-by-construction’ design methodology that reduces reliance on test-oriented validation approaches.
VSA is based on the open-source, plug-and-play, Eclipse Integrated Development Environment. Leef said the open-source platform makes VSA easily extensible by customers and other tool suppliers. “VSA supports multi-partner, distributed iterative development, enabling greater interaction between OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers,” he noted.
Leef noted that the number of ECUs in vehicles is growing, as are the total number of in-vehicle networks.
“The widely used CAN network protocol has bandwidth and reliability limitations,” he said. “(CAN) has the advantage of being inexpensive; however, it’s non-deterministic, and as a result, customers compensate by designing networks that use only a limited portion – frequently no more than 30% - of total bandwidth in order to increase the likelihood that messages will arrive in a sufficiently timely manner. But limiting use of network bandwidth diminishes CAN’s price/performance benefits.”
Leef said Volcano VSA builds upon Mentor Graphics’ original Volcano network design product and adds a deterministic layer that enables network designers to increase CAN bandwidth utilization to 90% or more.
“FlexRay, which is faster but also more costly than CAN, is being used by leading-edge OEMs, but it won’t move into mainstream vehicles because of its cost, and the cost won’t come down until volume increases.”
Other in-vehicle network protocols include Ethernet, which has potential especially for updating flash memory, and MOST, which Leef said is largely viewed as a proprietary technology for infotainment applications.
“The number of AUTOSAR ECUs is increasing significantly in the automobile industry within the next car generations,” said Dr. Guenter Reichart, one of the founders of AUTOSAR. “In order to design those systems, the industry is looking for an open tool-framework supporting the full AUTOSAR metamodel for authoring, consistency check and validation; an example of this would be Eclipse. We don’t need a short term solution but instead a solution which supports the future AUTOSAR process even in a more long term perspective. Mentor Graphics has taken this challenge and Mentor’s VSA tool is now ready and fully supporting the needs.”
“The AUTOSAR standard does a great job of standardizing, but it doesn’t necessarily simplify the design process. To design AUTOSAR-based systems, you need tools that take the complexity out of the design process and allow development teams to focus on their real jobs of delivering application software, ECUs or the networking system. This is what we are providing today,” Leef said.