Managing Automotive Test Capabilities in Rapidly Evolving Electronic Environments

With connected cars, electronic mobility and autonomous vehicles, automotive OEMs and their suppliers are driving the transportation revolution forward.

The challenge for today’s designers and engineers is integrating different systems so they work well together. To maximize your R&D investments and enable you to get to market faster, Electro Rent has partnered with leading OEMs to bring you a range of solutions for testing the latest automotive technology.

Managing Automotive Test Capabilities in Rapidly Evolving Electronic Environments
Managing Automotive Test Capabilities in Rapidly Evolving Electronic Environments
  • Testing protocols for V2V and V2X
  • EMC considerations
  • How to gain flexibility in testing
  • Test equipment for ADAS, Infotainment, Power Management, Connectivity, Bus Systems/Sensors

Read on this article if you are working on auto testing applications and want to learn more.

Content Summary

Overview
How to Manage Test Capabilities in the Rapidly Evolving Automotive Sector
Automotive Innovation
Implications for Automotive Test
Electrical Powertrain
Bus Systems/Sensors
Connectivity
EMC Considerations
ADAS
Time for a Test Revolution
Asset Optimization Solutions
Conclusion

Overview

In this article, Electro Rent examines current and future changes in the U.S. automotive sector and the impact of the accelerating rate of technological change and innovation on the test function. The document explores the ways in which automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers are partnering with test equipment solution providers to address emerging issues in this sector. It also provides an overview of the consultative approach taken by Electro Rent in advising automakers and auto engineers about the most cost-effective strategies for acquiring and managing modern test technology, while saving time and money and ensuring access to the latest equipment.

How to Manage Test Capabilities in the Rapidly Evolving Automotive Sector

The automotive industry is undergoing major upheaval as we move from driver controlled vehicles to the adoption of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and eventually the prospect of fully autonomous vehicles. The underlying technology is becoming ever more complex as additional functionality is integrated into vehicle architectures to support higher degrees of connectivity. As technology evolves, at some point driving may become secondary, transforming driver into passenger in a completely automated vehicle.

Advances in automotive engineering— especially in the areas of sensor fusion, power management, and artificial intelligence — mean that more sophisticated test strategies may be required to address the automotive revolution that is now upon us.

How to Manage Test Capabilities in the Rapidly Evolving Automotive Sector
How to Manage Test Capabilities in the Rapidly Evolving Automotive Sector

Along the way, advances in automotive engineering must continue to support the development of vehicles to meet the needs of future automotive buyers—especially in the areas of sensor fusion, power management, and artificial intelligence. While the implementation of emerging technologies presents design engineers with considerable challenges, it can also strain test department resources. Consequently, more sophisticated test strategies may be required to address the automotive revolution that is now upon us.

Automotive Innovation

The journey to autonomous vehicles is a primary, long-term objective of the automobile industry. It began years ago as electronics were increasingly added to vehicles, mostly as separate modules that provided additional features and functionality. In recent times, automakers have been replacing mechanical functionality with new, solid-state electronic systems to reduce weight, increase fuel economy and improve reliability. These advances mean that most models today have computing and processing capabilities far beyond what would have been found in the past in large mainframe computers.

Figure 1: Automotive Electronics Cost as a Percentage of Total Car Cost [Source: Statista]
Figure 1: Automotive Electronics Cost as a Percentage of Total Car Cost [Source: Statista]
The migration toward greater electrification and semi-autonomous driving runs the gamut of vehicles. Not only high-specification luxury models, but economy versions too. Even commercial, construction and agricultural vehicles are becoming more automated, efficient, and safer through the introduction of new electronic systems.

Regardless of whether the drivetrain is based upon the internal combustion engine, Electric Vehicle (EV), or Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), electronic content is proliferating and will continue to do so. In fact, according to Statista, the electronics content in an average car is now around one third of its total cost, and this is predicted to grow to nearly half during the next decade.

By increasing electronic content in vehicles, it will be possible to shift more of the responsibility for decision-making from the human driver to the vehicle itself. While some see this as a revolution, it is in fact an evolution. In the United States, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) mapped out the path toward vehicle autonomy by defining the key stages.

Each of the stages outlined in SAE J3016 shows how key functions of driving will be deferred to the vehicle and its systems. We are already moving down this path, with many vehicles being produced today that are already at either SAE Level 1 or Level 2.

Figure 2: The Steps Leading to Full Vehicle Automation Defined by the SAE J3016 Standard [Source: SAE International]
Figure 2: The Steps Leading to Full Vehicle Automation Defined by the SAE J3016 Standard [Source: SAE International]

Implications for Automotive Test

While the changes the auto industry faces are significant, and the timeframes compressed, the steps involved are clearly defined. Nevertheless, there remains a significant amount of uncertainty. First, there is little definition or understanding of the technical issues that lie ahead. Despite the huge amount of manpower and financial resources dedicated to developing the vehicles of the future, the industry will almost certainly be on the receiving end of some unexpected challenges. If we turn to industry analysts and commentators for certainty, we may be disappointed. Depending on which column you read, you could be convinced that fully autonomous motoring is just around the corner, or conversely that it is many years away.

One of the areas, however, where we can be certain of at least a few things, is automotive test and measurement. As new technologies emerge, test strategies must evolve accordingly. In some cases, this means a reconfiguration of existing facilities or upgrading equipment for faster or more accurate measurement speed. In other cases, it may be a completely new function that requires a new or different type of instrumentation.

As new technologies are introduced, test strategies must evolve accordingly. Sometimes, a reconfiguration or upgrade of existing facilities is required; other times, a completely new function may require a new or different type of instrumentation.

Implications for Automotive Test
Implications for Automotive Test

The pace of change in the industry and the lack of certainty regarding which technologies might be adopted are going to drive an unprecedented need for auto test departments and suppliers to react more quickly and become far more flexible. Due to the pace of technological change, test equipment is likely to become obsolete earlier in its lifecycle. Budget-constrained test engineers will need new strategies to address the competing goals of getting the job done while working within increasingly stringent budget constraints.

The wide range of technologies—including power management and control, high-datarate communication busses, wireless connectivity, and sensing technologies employed in modern vehicles will add to the pressures involved.

Electrical Powertrain

Especially relevant to HEVs and EVs, managing efficient use of power from the battery string will become a key competitive advantage for vehicle manufacturers. The complex vehicle power system will include DC-DC converters that supply different areas of the vehicle, and energy-recovery braking systems that ensure all available energy is directed toward increasing driving range.

Bus Systems/Sensors

As vehicles move toward full autonomy, no longer can electronic systems be a collection of disparate functional modules. To provide the intelligence, perception, and decision making required to approach human awareness in vehicles, each of these functions must combine into a single, ultra-intelligent system. As many of these functions are safety-critical (such as ADAS obstacle detection), ultra-low latency within the system will be required.

In-vehicle networking is coming to the forefront, and traditional automotive busses such as CAN-FD, LIN, FlexRAY, and MOST are being augmented with other technologies such as Ethernet. High-speed busses need high-speed test capability.

Connectivity

Until recently, vehicle communication was limited to infotainment and satellite navigation systems. However, with the prospect of vehicles being connected to each other and to the infrastructure of smart cities, a communication transformation must occur. Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity enables vehicles to be notified, in advance, about accidents, closures, obstacles in the road, or the availability and location of parking spaces at their destination. It also allows municipal authorities to monitor traffic flow, minimize traffic congestion at peak times, and reduce emissions.

In addition to V2I communication, future vehicles will also communicate with each other via vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. This will enable one vehicle to broadcast its intention to leave a road lane or arrive at an intersection, thereby reducing collision risk. Likewise, details of traffic issues, such as an unexpected obstacle ahead, will be sent between vehicles to make them aware of issues in advance. In a V2X scenario, vehicles could share information about road conditions with other devices— including traffic signals, sensors, emergency roadside warnings, and hazard systems— and with pedestrians and sensors embedded in road systems.

Modern vehicles already allow passengers to connect via their smart devices, allowing access to applications that make journeys easier, safer, and more efficient. The ongoing proliferation of in-vehicle communication will lead to multiple protocols such as WLAN, Bluetooth, and NFC within the vehicle itself, and mobile protocols such as LTE and LTE Advanced for external communications with other vehicles and the local environment.

EMC Considerations

The amount of electronics in modern vehicles continues to rise, which brings challenges regarding electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC)—the amount of radiated energy created by the vehicle and the susceptibility of sensitive electronics inside the vehicle to externally-generated radiation.

As vehicles become more aware of their environment, sensors are becoming ever more important, and as with any new technology, they require comprehensive testing and verification. GHz-band radar is a key development for vehicles and is also used in infrastructure applications for position sensing and object detection. Applying radar technologies to advanced automotive solutions such as advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles helps avoid potential risks from other vehicles, pedestrians and road objects and makes self-driving cars possible. Major applications of automotive radar include advanced emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, adaptive cruise control, parking assist, front and rear cross traffic alert, stop-and-go, and more.

The ongoing proliferation of in-vehicle communication will lead to multiple protocols for external communications with other vehicles and the local environment.

ADAS

A major goal of the move toward automated vehicles is to increase safety on roads through ADAS. Through such systems, it is possible to detect objects such as vehicles or pedestrians, allowing them to be avoided without driver intervention. To ensure operational integrity of ADAS systems as they become increasingly complex, significant testing will be required, often to meet ASIL specification and other safety standards.

Time for a Test Revolution

Accelerating development cycles and continually-advancing technologies are putting a significant burden on test departments and their budgets. The default model of simply buying all necessary equipment up-front could well exacerbate financial strain in these swiftly-changing times.

To ensure operational integrity of ADAS systems as they become increasingly complex, significant testing will be required, often to meet ASIL specification and other safety standards.

Independent, third-party solution providers are well positioned to provide advice and recommendations that help users make more informed decisions regarding product selection, acquisition method, and financing alternatives. This substantially reduces testing costs and provides flexibility to upgrade equipment or technology as needed.

It is now recognized that complex, multi-site projects can rarely be served with a one-size-fits-all approach. Therefore, there are great benefits in working with a partner that offers a wide array of sourcing options to manage test equipment throughout the entire project lifecycle, from concept to prototyping, development, and full-scale production.

Instrumentation can be sourced through various methods, including short-term renting, longer-term leasing, rent-to-buy, new equipment, or certified pre-owned equipment. Rented equipment incurs a charge only for as long as it is kept. If a project ends, or new technology means that different instrumentation is required, the rented items can be sent back or replaced with newer units featuring the latest testing technology.

This means that there is no risk of equipment becoming outdated or investments in new testing product being wasted. Similarly, purchased equipment—whether originally bought new or acquired through the certified pre-owned program—can be sold back, making funds available for sourcing other equipment. Once your solution provider understands your situation, which may include both short and long-term needs and CapEx or OpEx priorities, they can recommend various options, or a mix of solutions, to achieve the greatest savings and efficiencies.

Asset Optimization Solutions

Electro Rent offers a complete asset optimization solution for test departments that includes equipment tracking, auditing, and management. This modular platform provides complete test asset visibility, allowing the location and details of each piece to be identified quickly and easily.

Using the latest evolution of Bluetooth low energy solutions, real-time asset management of high-value testing equipment is now possible. Bluetooth beacons with a battery life of four to five years are affixed to each asset to transmit low-energy signals that are recognized by the application on the user’s mobile device or by static readers.

Asset Optimization
Asset Optimization

While modern test and measurement equipment enables projects to be completed in an efficient and timely manner, these Bluetooth®-enabled asset management devices help companies reduce costs, increase visibility and accountability, eliminate redundant assets, and improve equipment utilization.

Accessed via a smartphone, tablet, or PC, engineers, product managers, and finance teams can gain access to a real-time view of all test and measurement equipment.

Users can manage maintenance, repair, and calibration schedules for each item, and monitor equipment utilization and asset performance.

With this information, companies can approve requests, estimate cost and delivery times, allocate costs, and make informed rent vs. buy decisions. The system also helps users eliminate unnecessary purchases, arrange for sale of used instruments, and free up storage space and associated operating costs for lightly-used or no-longerused equipment.

Conclusion

The automotive world is moving into a new era that will be defined by increasing connectivity, greater levels of electronic content, and work toward autonomous vehicle operation. The pace of change is increasing. New technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things, and industrial automation are emerging that will significantly broaden the scope of items that require testing and verification. To keep up with this demand and budget constraints, test departments must seek out intelligent and multifaceted solutions that can be tailored to their needs–without compromise.

The pace of change is increasing and new technologies are emerging that will significantly broaden the scope of items that require testing and verification.

By leveraging the right information from those with expertise and knowledge in test management, and by understanding the variety of sourcing options available, test engineers and managers can choose the best combination for their projects on a case-by-case basis. At the same time, new sourcing methods generate significant savings for reinvestment. If new technologies arise, they allow the flexibility to upgrade as required without the need for additional investments. Similarly, if a project moves from prototyping to large-scale production, the number of test units can be increased quickly to meet the new projected demand.

Source: Electro Rent