Are We on the Verge of a New Approach to Vehicle System Development?

The auto industry is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. If you’re like us, you’ve read countless articles that state the challenges of embedded software development:

> 60% of projects are over budget

> 20% are cancelled due to excessive time or a blown-up budget

> 30% fall short of consumers’ expectations

Meanwhile, the competition for unique new features, better reliability, and better safety has led to exponentially more software and complexity. Development efforts and costs are rising, and—let’s be honest—corners get cut.

The Catch-22 of Vehicle System Development

The race to market comes at a price. Software fails, causing injuries and deaths, costly warranty recalls, and lawsuits. This threat is pushing auto companies to adopt tighter standards like ISO-26262. Cutting corners isn’t an option any longer. Full traceability and rigorous V&V testing are now mandatory. That’s a good thing, right? Here’s the catch: If you improve safety, you increase the time to market or the cost of production (or both), and you could end up sacrificing innovation to make up for lost time.

The Promise of Model-Based Systems Design

Model-based design lets design teams virtually test and adjust models during the early stages of development. By providing virtual prototyping capabilities, Model- Based Design enables efficient optimization of the overall system design (mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, embedded software, etc) before hardware is even available for testing. Centering development around an MBD approach requires fewer, and less expensive, components to be purchased, minimizes the number of physical prototypes required, and allows teams to reuse and adapt previously created model designs. The efficiency of the MBD process also reduces the size of development teams needed through a more efficient allocation of resources. Finally, MBD can help achieve a reduction of costs associated with warranty, support, documentation, and certification, and can eliminate penalties that arise due to missed deadlines.

The popular “V” process model is often tweaked to incorporate model-based design recognizing the need for iterative development.

The Limitations of Model-Based Systems Design

While the benefits of using model-based design for embedded software development are significant, there can be some challenges to initially adopting this type of workflow. Model complexity continues to increase – more components need to communicate in more ways every day. This makes it more imperative, but also more difficult, to efficiently visualize and manage all system architecture, data, and interfaces. Integrating all of these components together in one place and synchronizing the communication between them poses an additional challenge. After sufficient simulation testing, integration of the model implementation needs to be put on hardware for additional validation. This normally requires significant hand-coding and other manual, error-prone efforts to integrate the model with low-level platform code. Finally, immense time and effort is required to even create the initial representative plant models that fully leverage the simulation capabilities of model-based design. With all of this said, it remains to be seen how these challenges can be adequately addressed.

Systems Development: What’s Next?

It seems clear – companies that employ an MBD approach are able to win more projects, prototype more rapidly, generate sales earlier, continuously integrate new functionality, and achieve product quality that the competition simply can’t. However, there remain significant barriers to overcome before all of the potential and promises of model-based design are realized.

Can we have it all? Is it even possible to comprehend and manage complexity, provide traceability, guarantee consistency, increase innovation, improve productivity, guarantee safety and reliability, and reduce cost? Can you be better, faster and cheaper than the competition?

What if we adopted a more holistic view of system development—one that enables a much faster development process? It can be done. But only if we change the way we think, and only if we adopt a process that’s built for innovation and rapidly evolving requirements, design and implementation.

That’s the challenge that SimuQuest has dedicated its energies to resolving—not just in part, but completely. Take a look on our website to see our MBD solutions.

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