Engineering electrical/electronic architecture for today's high-tech vehicles

Jan. 1, 2007
Coping with the complexity of the electrical-electronic architecture in modern vehicles requires an integrated design methodology. Using this approach, new designs reduce mass by up to 20% and cost by as much as 30%.

Safety, handling, propulsion and entertainment are just a sampling of the many systems that depend upon electrical and electronic (E/E) architecture. Today's drivers expect their cars and trucks to work flawlessly for as long as they own them, yet remain un-aware of the underlying complexity of the electronic nervous system that makes everything work. Most vehicles have more than one mile of wiring, dozens of computer modules and multiple serial data links to implement the functionality demanded in today's market.

Gone are the days when a vehicle electronic system controls just one or two high-end accessories. As vehicles become equipped with more electronically driven features like navigation systems, satellite radio, airbags, climate control and power closures, the development of E/E architecture has evolved into a more prominent role in the transportation industry. Now, more than ever, vehicle manufacturers need a supplier capable of analyzing their needs, and designing and manufacturing complete systems to meet all requirements.

Focused on both electrical distribution and electronic components, Delphi's E/E architecture design methodology helps ensure the optimal selection of vehicle data networks, diagnostics, fault tolerance, physical/functional partitioning, and power and signal distribution.

As I see it, the term architecture is a fitting one to describe the up-front process of defining a vehicle's electrical and electronic system early in the vehicle design cycle. Just as a master architect constructs a home or building, our engineers use their experience, along with proprietary design tools, to create a virtual model of the E/E architecture. With computer modeling and simulation tools, design direction can be verified to meet customer requirements for cost, mass, packaging efficiency and more.

All this painstaking attention to detail in the design phase pays off when it comes to manufacturing a complete E/E system for customers. We have seen new designs reduce mass by up to 20% and cost by as much as 30% — all while improving functionality. The systems also feature enhanced reliability and better assembly line compatibility.

Hence, we call an E/E system a natural integrator. It touches all areas of the vehicle, including harsh environments and densely packaged real estate. E/E architecture complements how automakers want to build their vehicles and how drivers want their vehicles to perform. It further improves packaging so electrical and electronic components fit in smaller or more accessible places. In some instances, it can eliminate the need for specific components altogether, which leads to significant savings.

Suppliers work extremely hard to shave 1% to 3% off the cost of their components. However, the magnitude of savings available at the systems level is much greater, as long as an integrated methodology is used to develop the architecture.

Numerous vehicles already benefiting from the E/E architecture expertise are on the road in Asia, Europe and North America — and more are on the way as OEMs discover the value in working with suppliers offering an E/E architecture vision.


Dave Wright is director of advanced engineering and electrical/electronic architecture for Delphi Packard E/E Architecture. His responsibilities include advanced product, process and technology development in Ohio. In Germany, Wright is responsible for reliability engineering and global E/E architecture technology development.


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