I don’t hear a lot about AUTOSAR (Automotive Open System Architecture) technology in production vehicles, but I’m inclined to think that will change sooner than later. It’s not just the number of major players in the consortium, but also the compelling need for less complexity in application development, lower development costs, and faster time-to-market. Standard (AUTOSAR-compliant) software and hardware components would seem to have great potential for achieving those benefits.
In December, when the AUTOSAR development partnership published Release 4.0 specifications, AUTOSAR spokesperson Simon Fürst said the new version “provides all of the features ECUs will need for the next generation of cars,” including support for functional safety, multi-core microcontrollers, LIN 2.1, FlexRay 3.0, and a timing model. AUTOSAR now has well over 500 Application Interfaces for body and comfort, powertrain, chassis, occupant/pedestrian safety, and human machine interface domains.
If AUTOSAR software components can run on any AUTOSAR-compliant electronic control unit (ECU), and some ECUs have bandwidth to spare, electrical and electronic system designers may be able to reduce the number of different kinds of ECUs in a vehicle and perhaps even reduce the total number of ECUs, all things being equal. That is a big cost saving.
But all things are seldom equal, and cost is not the only consideration. As applications expand in number and complexity, designers have an increasing number of variables to take into account, such as performance and reliability, and engineering expertise really matters.
Someday a designer might be enough to simply push a button and let some sophisticated software tool instantly evaluate the consequences of thousands of possible combinations of elements and yield the optimal solution.
AUTOSAR tools are available and becoming more sophisticated. It’s likely they will continue to get better as AUTOSAR becomes more popular. Which comes first? Is there a reason to wait for better tools, or are the advantages of standardized hardware and software components sufficient by themselves?