Network and Control Unit
Already some people will tell you that a modern vehicle is like a computer on wheelsRichard Wallace
What do the beach and a vehicle have in common? Silicon. Silicon is the second most abundant natural element on earth, after oxygen. It is present as a dioxide in sand and is the main element in semiconductors, widely used by electronics companies.
Much of the silicon produced today is not used to build computers, but is literally being swallowed up by the systems that surround us every day: houses, household appliances, buildings, cars, planes and trains. Vehicles are particularly greedy when it comes to silicon. Over time, it has become necessary to have electronic control units for traction, stability, lights, doors, radio and navigation, as well as the engine. Despite efforts to simplify and streamline, a luxury car can now contain over a hundred control units. Even in small cars, we are reaching software masses of hundreds of megabytes. This software enables us to consume less fuel, pollute less, have safe and assisted driving, move around the world using navigation systems, make phone calls from the comfort of temperature-controlled cabins, listen to music and enjoy ever richer forms of entertainment through on-board multimedia systems. The experience of driving today’s cars would seem like a marvel to a driver from the 1970s.
This revolution was driven by the electronic control unit, the embedded system par excellence. The ECU (Electronic Control Unit) is a software masterpiece: it’s reliable, fast and optimised. But the real strength lies in the integration of several control units. Constant dialogue between the different units has made the vehicles autonomous and intelligent.
The hybrid/electric car and autonomous driving promise new things, but further intensify this software race. Two new technologies are helping us to meet this challenge. Smart network technology is the first. The automotive Ethernet will join the traditional CAN, LIN and CAN-FD networks, and the control unit traffic will be mediated by intelligent interfaces (gateways) which, in addition to routing traffic, will perform calculations and provide services. The second is the control unit communication to the remote world, to the cloud. Teoresi has been integrating control units into cars, industrial and agricultural vehicles, trains and household appliances for 20 years.
Every industry has its own control units. Road vehicles have body computers and infotainment units. Aircraft have Flight Control Systems and trains have Train Control Management Systems (TCMS). In addition to the main control units, there are dozens of satellite units that control the brakes, lights, climate, doors and security. For each of these components, the software production cycle has to be rigorous to avoid constant maintenance and recalls. While always starting from the functional requirements, the issues of scheduling, speed and occupancy must be taken into account from the outset, as well as designing the interfaces for communication with the outside world. Diagnostics is another important topic to address, and software increasingly needs to meet different standards, such as AUTOSAR, ISO 26262, CENELEC 50128/29 and DO178C.
Teoresi is working on these issues in different industries with multi-domain expertise and the advantage of cross utilisation.
Each control unit is a world, and each one speaks what we could call its own dialect. There was initially a single standard in cars, CAN. Now we have CAN-FD, LIN and flexRay. A new evolution is in full swing: the use of the traditional Ethernet protocol in the automotive and other sectors. This new Automotive Ethernet will simplify in-vehicle connections, be much faster, will interface seamlessly with remote systems and will be much more manageable. Interfaces known as gateways already enable and will continue to enable direct communication between the different protocols. Teoresi has been working with vehicle networks since the end of the 1990s, when CAN was in its infancy. Today, this expertise is distinctive with teams specialising in ECU interfacing and integration and exclusive partnerships with market-leading companies.