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New consortium tackles automotive ECU diagnostics

John Day

John Day

Posted Jul 21, 2010

Four German automotive firms are embarking on a three-year collaborative research project to see if they can make vehicle diagnostics more like science than art.

Audi, Continental, Infineon, and ASIC/ASSP developer ZMD estimate that up to 40 percent of vehicle electronics errors can’t be precisely diagnosed, which isn’t a huge surprise considering that cars these days contain 80-something electronic control units (ECUs), on average.

Lacking the ability to pinpoint causes of failures, repair shops employ trial and error techniques, swapping out various components until they hit on the right combination. That’s really not fun for anyone except listeners to NPR’s “Car Talk,” who are grateful that the problems discussed belong to someone other than them. Back and forth repair trips are costly, and they wreak havoc on customer loyalty.

So it’s time for project DIANA, which consortium members say is a German acronym that translates as “end-to-end diagnostic capabilities in semiconductor components and systems for analyzing persistent and sporadic errors in automobiles.” I’ll take their word for it.

The four project partners will be assisted by several German research organizations and universities, including  the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Dresden, the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich, and the Universities of Cottbus, Erlangen-Nuremberg, and Stuttgart.

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is ponying up some €4.8 million to support the project as part of the German government’s high-tech strategy and Information and Communications Technology 2020 program (IKT 2020), for which automobiles and mobility are key areas of emphasis. One of the program’s goals is to significantly improve the robustness of automotive electronics.

With Infineon taking the lead and employing processes developed in its Automotive Excellence Program, the four partners will work on ways to make error detection more precise and faults easier to rectify for automakers and repair shops alike. They say their efforts will create a basis for quicker and more efficient identification and correction of electronics faults. Research outcomes will be incorporated into automotive electronics products and could help to ensure that cars are more reliable, require fewer trips to the repair shop, and can be repaired more efficiently.

And if the test routines prove a success in motor vehicles, they can be employed in other engineering application areas where safety is critical.

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, IKT 2020, ASSP, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Audi, University of Stuttgart, University of the Federal Armed Forces, ASIC, ZMD, Infineon, DIANA research project, Information and Communications Technology 2020 program, end-to-end diagnostics, NPR's "Car Talk", Automotive Electronics, University of Cottbus

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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