Risks of changing electrical architecture

Discussion in 'General' started by bwilson4web, Jan 27, 2019.

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  1. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    A proposed new approach to embedded firmware.

    BMW and Audi, who often pioneer much that is new in automotive electronics globally, are in the process of developing radically new electronics architectures for future vehicles. The carmakers are taking a similar approach: high-performance central computing units replacing today’s outmoded distributed computing architecture.

    The auto industry is facing profound disruption, with new competitors from the IT and consumer electronics worlds making inroads. Google, Apple, Tencent, Uber, Alibaba, and Baidu are developing revolutionary new mobility solutions. Tesla is already here. Automated driving is coming faster than initially thought. The vehicle’s interior is quickly going digital.

    A revolutionary new architecture is needed that can take advantage of what has become the state of the art in consumer electronics: internet connectivity, cloud computing, swarm intelligence, and over-the-air feature updates.

    Today carmakers purchase infotainment systems and vehicle control systems from tier-one suppliers who tightly embed software components within electronic control units. If a carmaker wants to change suppliers, it must validate and test a completely different software stack—an enormously time-consuming and expensive endeavor.
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    This is what happens when you outsource too much of your product design. The procurement folks read the dollars and cents but don't understand the technical specifications. Tesla did it because they had too.

    Bob Wilson
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  3. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    But this approach to building automobiles by legacy auto makers goes far beyond just the electronics and software. I found much of what Sandy Munro had to say during the extensive Autoline After Hours interview -- well, it was more just letting Sandy talk about what he wanted to talk about rather than an interview -- to be fascinating.

    I can't quote what he said word for word, but to paraphrase or summarize, what he said was that the various departments within legacy auto builders' design teams jealously safeguard their control over their little "fiefdom". In particular, Sandy was talking about, and praising to high Heaven, the Tesla Model 3's heat exchanger. He actually brought one to the interview to show off, and to point to as he talked about it. There is just one heat exchanger in the car, and it serves the purpose for the battery heater, the motor cooling system, and one loop of the cabin heater. (The cabin is also heated by a resistive heater, but heat scavenged from the motor is sometimes used to heat the cabin and/or the battery.)

    Sandy said there is no way that you'd ever see this level of integration in a car from a legacy auto maker. The team designing, for example, the car's powertrain would never allow the same heat exchanger used for battery cooling to also warm the cabin. A traditional car would have three heat exchangers where the Model 3 has just one.

    On the other hand, I can see some advantage to the modular approach. It allows car makers to change one system without having to change other things. Using one part or one subassembly (like the Model 3's heat exchanger) for multiple functions means that if any of the functions that it services changes, you have to change that subassembly to match.

    So, as I see it: Tesla's approach to making automobiles results (at least potentially) in lower unit costs for making its autos, but higher development costs, and possibly more redevelopment/ problem-fixing costs after a model has already entered production.

    Much as I'm a fan of Tesla, that company has only produced three models of car in-house. (The original Roadster gliders were built for Tesla by Lotus.) I think it may be premature to say that Tesla's method of building cars is superior, altho it certainly does seem to produce cars which are highly desirable in a way which few if any other car models can match.

    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
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  4. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Sandy also pointed out that most of the software functions run on a single board computer. This makes running all functions from a multi-tasking, probably multi-threaded, operating system. Thus ordinarily isolated functions can read sensor data without having to add independent sensors. Since so many of Tesla's developers come from Apple, they know how to do it right and throughly test it.

    Bob Wilson
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  5. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Sandy had a lot to say about the way Tesla builds cars in that video. I wish there was a proper transcript of his remarks!

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  6. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Yes, but you and I are cursed with memory ... that eludes the skeptics.

    Bob Wilson
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