Mentor, XSe Aim to Accelerate Automotive Electronics Design

July 15, 2014

Mentor Graphics ' acquisition of XS Embedded GmbH (XSe) last week could be meaningful for automotive electronics engineers, potentially enabling them to accelerate design and verification of products ranging from infotainment packages to autonomous safety systems.

The acquisition brings together Mentor, a supplier of electronic design automation (EDA) systems, with XSe, a maker of hardware and software reference platforms. By merging, the two companies could lay the foundation for simpler integration of seemingly disparate automotive domains, including infotainment, driver information systems, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

"We're seeing a trend toward greater integration of [automotive] domains," Kamran Shah, director of marketing for Mentor's Embedded Systems Division, told Design News. "This will make it easier to design systems, such as collision detection or infotainment systems, that are more tightly coupled."

To accomplish that, Mentor will combine its expertise with that of XSe. Mentor's products include software, hardware, and design tools for automotive audio, graphics, video, electrical systems, and wiring harnesses. XSe, meanwhile, offers automotive-ready hardware and software solutions, including a reference board called AXSB, which is based on Texas Instruments ' Jacinto 6 processor . The combination of the companies' capabilities would give Mentor Graphics a way to provide automotive-ready solutions in cross-functional settings.

The availability of such automotive-grade solutions could be important for designers of increasingly complex automotive systems. Today's conventional electronic reference platforms typically are not automotive-ready, Shah told us. As a result, engineers often end up changing processors, memories, or other components late in the design process, leading to higher bill-of-material costs, while slowing time to market. Worse, such late-stage changes can also result in a need for major software alterations.

The new Mentor-XSe reference platform changes that because it is specifically targeted at the automotive market. "Let's say you want to prototype a rear-view camera," Shah explained. "With this reference platform, you have automotive-grade hardware. You've got the camera and the processor and the chipsets you want to use, and you can start verifying and optimizing, which would normally happen later on."

The Mentor acquisition of XSe comes at a time when the auto industry is in need of a way to make in-vehicle domains that can interface with each other. Most automakers are looking for ways to reduce the number of microcontrollers and increase the capabilities of the remaining ECUs. They're also facing a greater need for domains -- such as instrument clusters and collision detection systems -- to "talk" to one another.

Mentor says its goal is to simplify that communication. "Integration and mixing of information is driving this market," Shah told us. "Together, our companies are in a better position to handle that."

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