With the current prevalence of on-board computing systems in vehicles, and the inevitable increase in these for more sophisticated (and cleaner and more fuel efficient!) solutions in a number of areas, including advanced combustion, valve management, transmission and telematics, the need for standardized software interfaces and standardized communications is pressing.
Infineon, the number two global supplier of automotive semiconductors (behind Motorola), gave two such initiatives a boost by joining them recently. Infineon joins AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) as a premium member and the FlexRay consortium.
AUTOSARs vision is to enable improved management of increasingly complex system by enabling increased reuse and exchangeability of software modules between suppliers and OEMs. A market-ecture view of the architecture is to the right. (Click to enlarge.)
This sort of initiative is inevitable as vehicles become more and more entwined with the controlling electronics. Manufacturers will find themselves increasingly in an integration/assembly, marketing and sales role. This is exactly the process through which the computer industry itself has gone. Open systems and open architectures allow the manufacturer to optimize function and cost—two factors that can be at odds.
FlexRay is a communication system initiative supported by most of the global car companies (FlexRay Consortium members now account for almost 7 out of every 10 cars made). FlexRay is designed to provide fault-tolerant support for in-car control systems. The communications protocol design issues are interesting—but to a smaller audience.