Over the past three decades the automotive electronics industry has progressed from transistorized voltage regulators in the 1960's to vehicles today with more than 30 electronic modules containing complex integrated circuits such as microprocessors, DSPs and smart analog ICs. These sophisticated ECUs (Electronic Control Units) have been primarily driven by the need to meet Government regulations on emissions and fuel economy and partially by market pressures for differentiation. The result has been a proliferation of independent, self supporting electronic modules with complex wiring interconnects, and, in many cases, redundant features. This “add a function, add a module” approach coupled with traditional design methodologies has created new challenges for the automotive industry in the areas of costs, diagnostics and more recently design cycle time. With up-integration to reduce costs, the design and development cycle times for some of these ECU is starting to exceed the vehicle development times, causing the automotive design community to take a fresh look at their design methodologies and tools. The engineers are also discovering that electronic design can no longer be an independent activity but it needs to be seamlessly integrated into the design of the vehicle and it's mechanical/electromechanical systems.
This paper will describe some new system level approaches that are being applied and also discuss some future technology developments that will improve the system design methodology for vehicle systems. In addition, emerging standards will be discussed that will provide a foundation for future automotive electronic performance and reliability improvements, as well as cycle time and cost reduction.