Trusting the electronics

Trusting the electronics

Electronics for complex systems
Today’s vehicles are equipped with increasingly complex systems, for example when it comes to safety, steering, braking and suspension. Radars, cameras and other sensors are connected in intricate systems to help prevent accidents or otherwise assist the driver. The drawback is that there are more things that can break. That’s why Volvo Group is working on technologies that can predict malfunctions before they cause problems.

Hostile environment
A vehicle is in many ways a bad place for sensitive electronic systems. There is always a risk that moisture, temperature shifts, dirt or interference will cause a problem, such as a short circuit. It is of course important that the damage of such faults is limited and that it doesn’t impede the vehicle’s overall performance or causes a dangerous situation. For the most part, in today’s vehicles, a warning light warns the driver of the problem and the system falls back on mechanical options. This is an example of a so called graceful degradation, meaning that the system continues to operate, but at a reduced level of service.

System wide analysis
In a traditional system the diagnostics is somewhat “short sighted”, the individual component may report a problem, but it can’t analyse the system as a whole. Therefore a single faulty condition may cause several reported failures in the affected components, but the system misses to combine these and detect the actual problem.  At Volvo Group we are working to develop diagnostic technologies that can handle increasingly complex electronic systems.

However, understanding failures on system level is only part of the future system analysis. The best
thing is of course to avoid failures all together. So, instead of diagnosing problems, the system will make a prognosis on when failures are likely to occur. This approach of prognostics, rather than diagnostics, makes it theoretically possible to avoid or at least drastically reduce unplanned stops in the future, and it can also include mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic systems.

Safety through system models
Volvo Group is also working with system models, used to evaluate the timing properties of different features. Many systems in a vehicle are time-critical or time-dependant and the effects of improper timing can cause unwanted situations.

By building models it is possible to analyse results in a controlled environment, for example if the brakes are working within a specific time span after the pedal has been pushed down, or that the air bags are released within a certain time span after the vehicle has discovered a collision.

Current collaborations
Volvo Group is working with AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture), a standardised software architecture developed in collaboration with other automobile manufacturers, suppliers and tool developers. By creating a standard for electronics we can ensure cost efficiency and that quality control is the same internationally, but it is also a key to manage the growing electronics complexity.

Beside the AUTOSAR project, Volvo Group is also working towards the ISO26262 standard. The ISO26262 will be released in 2011, followed by a heavy vehicles update in 2014-2015.