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Software Takes the Lead in Developing Automotive ECUs

Integrated development environment creates ECU software without hardware to speed time-to-market.

Spencer Chin

October 7, 2022

3 Min Read
Renesas Electronics has launched an integrated development environment that allows engineers to rapidly create software for automotive ECUs, without requiring the actual hardware. Image courtesy of Renesas

The automotive industry faces similar, often even more intense time-to-market pressures that other industries, and developing and testing software is a key challenge as more vehicle systems employ massive amounts of software to control functions. Semiconductor supplier Renesas Electronics has launched an integrated development environment that allows engineers to rapidly create software for automotive ECUs (Electronic Control Units) containing multiple hardware devices.

The fully integrated environment supports co-simulation, debug and trace, high-speed simulation and distributed processing software over multiple SoCs (System-on-Chips) and MCUs (Microcontrollers)—all without the need for the actual hardware. This software development environment recognizes the automotive industry’s shift toward “Software First” product development, in which a vehicle’s value is increasingly defined by its software, as well as the “Shift Left” software design approach, which emphasizes software verification and validation earlier in the development cycle, before hardware is available.

Full Product Development

Renesas is making the first development environment tools available now for the- R-Car S4 and RH850/U2A devices. By providing a simulation environment from early stages of product development, the platform enables verification and application development before producing actual devices and ECUs, realizing the Shift Left concept. 

Related:Connectivity Software Speeds Vehicle ECU Design

By integrating and connecting simulators such as the R-Car Virtual Platform, which was previously provided for single-chip individual devices such as SoCs and microcontrollers, Renesas is delivering a new simulation environment for multi-device operation. Designs can now be optimized by balancing different application functions and incorporating software verification at the systems level. A development tool that automatically generates software code for devices and a simulation environment for verification from MATLAB® /Simulink® models will also be available. These tools will allow engineers to evaluate performance and start application development before hardware and ECUs are in production. 

To help visualize how software operates internally, Renesas is providing a debug and trace tool that allows simultaneous and synchronized execution, execution control by breakpoints and information tracing for ECUs containing multiple devices. With this tool, users can visualize processing flows, evaluate performance profiles, and anticipate problems that may arise from operating multiple devices which are intricately linked within the same ECU. Renesas plans to implement the same functionality in the multi-device co-simulation environment, enabling debugging and tracing to be performed on a computer without an ECU.

Related:3 Things You Absolutely Need for Your Next Automotive Development

Typically, in ECU-level simulations, the target software tends to be large and the simulation execution takes a long time. This new high-speed simulator is based on QEMU, an open-source virtual environment that models SoCs and microcontrollers at a high level of abstraction, enabling faster ECU-level simulation of complex software.

The software enables optimal distribution of application functions to CPUs and IPs inside different SoCs and microcontrollers in an ECU, maximizing hardware performance. With this software, engineers can develop applications rapidly, without being constrained by the ECU hardware configuration. For example, developers can add an AI accelerator to an existing ECU to boost system performance, without having to re-design the application to accommodate the new device.

The new development platform is designed to reduce the impact on the environment by providing a turn-key solution that accelerates time to market and saves energy.  

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].


About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor with Design News, covering the electronics beat.

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