AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) is an open and standardised automotive software architecture, jointly developed by vehicle makers, suppliers and tool developers. In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with Dr Stefan Bunzel, spokesperson for AUTOSAR about the consortium’s achievements in 2010 and plans for 2011.

just-auto: Could you give us an overview of the current state and future development of the automotive standard software development?

Stefan Bunzel: Ever more demanding requirements on safety, environmental protection and comfort/convenience have resulted in a sharp increase in the number of electronic systems to be found in vehicles. Meanwhile, 90% of all automotive innovations are driven by electronics and software. The automotive industry has recognised that standardisation of the ECU architecture is needed in order to handle this increasing functional complexity in a cost efficient way which enables a high amount of functional integration and the reusability of software applications. The development and standardisation of AUTOSAR addresses these challenges.

Turning to AUTOSAR, what has the consortium achieved in 2010?

The development partnership AUTOSAR is working to selectively enhance the standard. About 50 new technical concepts are jointly worked out to be subsequently incorporated into the Release 4.1, which is scheduled for end of 2012. Multicore systems are one of the main topics in ECU development and therefore AUTOSAR addresses these challenges by enhancing the support for multi-core systems. The introduction of features for efficient energy management is an important topic. Besides this, features for supporting functional safety are still a highlight in AUTOSAR. Furthermore the partnership maintained former releases, in particular Release 4.0 and 3.1.

In addition, AUTOSAR answered current market needs by integration of a new minor release, R3.2 in the planning. It mainly will update the communication stack and will add partial networking functionality. Major parts of the work on specifications are already done.

Besides the technical achievements, AUTOSAR especially addressed the Asian market. The close cooperation with JasPar is ongoing and well established. In May there was the 2nd AUTOSAR Open Conference in Tokyo. In October, AUTOSAR held a two-day technical seminar in Shanghai, where 35 Chinese companies, institutes, and governmental organisations attended.

What are its plans and targets for 2011?

2011 will be challenging for AUTOSAR as we will be launching the conformance tests with Release 4.0.2. This is a big step towards the interoperability of basic software modules and the continuity of the standard. In addition, we will have to issue Release 3.2 and finalise the content of Release 4.1 in this phase. It is our challenge to find a wise balance with regard to innovation, stability and backwards compatibility for any further development.

The current tough economic climate has clearly taken its toll on the automotive industry. To what extent has this slowed the progression of your consortia? 

AUTOSAR has been successful in launching AUTOSAR phase III in a difficult economic situation. Maintenance and selective enhancement of the standard are the main topics for Phase III. The enhancement will be specified in such a way that it is possible to ensure backward compatibility wherever feasible and/or to make reliable compatibility statements.

And are you seeing new design activity in the marketplace in terms of in-car software architecture?

The AUTOSAR development partnership standardises software technologies for automotive use. Therefore AUTOSAR is in contact with other standardisation bodies. If there are existing solutions available, they are integrated, referenced or adopted when this is adequate.

While we believe that AUTOSAR is a noble cause, there are critics who think otherwise.  In particular, critics argue that AUTOSAR lacks information about timing requirements in its meta-model. Is that a fair point?

AUTOSAR has identified the timing requirements as an important development step. The critics holds true only for releases before R4.0. In R4.0, end of 2009, AUTOSAR significantly extended the meta-model and the derived description templates in order to support the description and modelling of timing requirements. These extensions provide means to specify timing constraints like end-to-end (e.g. sensor-to-actuator or communication) delays, minimum/maximum execution times of runnable entities, or constraints on the triggering rate of events. They include synchronised time bases (i.e. a “global time”) across ECU networks, synchronised execution and deterministic timing of application software components, as well as support for controlling the timing behaviour and detection of timing violations at run-time. 

Also, during the standard creation process, many participants – OEMs as well as tier-one companies – lobbied and managed to get functions and elements established as a part of the standard that not all the members of the AUTOSAR consortium were interested in. Critics say that this bloats the standard’s definition at the expense of clarity. The consequence will be that many suppliers offer different subsets of the standard definition.  Is that a fair point or misconception?

The AUTOSAR standard intentionally contains significant configuration freedom. Thus an implementation does not have to consider any feature. AUTOSAR has the principle 'Co-operate on standards, compete on implementation'. 

Each company has to follow its own strategy based on the roadmap of its product lines. As the delivery of implementations - in particular implementations of basic software - must be enabled and supported worldwide, the best quality and service is expected in free competition on implementation level. AUTOSAR provides similar benefits for OEMs and suppliers as well as for tool providers and new market entrants. Switching from proprietary software to standardised software architecture offers cost and capacity benefits for everyone involved in automotive electronics development.

The AUTOSAR standardisation results in a higher degree of reuse of components. This will basically increase the maturity and thus also the quality of these components. Carmakers and suppliers are able to reduce their development costs and to optimise their electronic architecture. In particular, tool developers can benefit from the standardised exchange formats, which enable common interfaces with development processes.

While there is a continuous flow of alternative technologies into the vehicle  that allow for reduced circuitry per feature, can it keep pace with the number and complexity of features being introduced into today’s cars?

AUTOSAR enables the development of systems with increased complexity at reasonable costs with high quality, e.g. new driver assistance systems, safety systems, and systems for electromobility. Standardisation leads to improved quality, shorter lead times and lower costs. The AUTOSAR standard allows software components provided by OEMs or other suppliers to be easily integrated. Beneath the improvements regarding the development methodology and processes AUTOSAR enables to benefit from new hardware technology, e.g. by considering multicore or partitioning approaches.

Although wireless systems are still costly, do you see it as playing a major role in the future? As far as tomorrow’s car is concerned, the clear trend is toward vehicles that are smaller, lighter and use a range of powertrains and materials.  Small engines, hybrids, diesels, more fuel-efficient gasoline engines and electric vehicles will be commonplace in ten years time.  How do you see this affecting the EEDS?

Electronics play an outstanding part particularly in today's engine concepts. At present, over one third of a vehicle's added value is attributable to its electronics and information systems. This proportion will rise to over 50 percent in future years. AUTOSAR has been gaining remarkable momentum regarding application in series projects at many members and partners. First cars with AUTOSAR technology are already on the road. Several OEMs have started the development of high volume vehicle platforms which apply AUTOSAR at most of their ECUs.

This comes along with many AUTOSAR series projects at suppliers and tool providers. AUTOSAR paves the way for innovative electronic systems that further improve performance, safety and environmental friendliness, and it is a key enabling technology to manage the growing electrics / electronics complexity. It aims to be prepared for the upcoming technologies and to improve cost-efficiency without making any compromise with respect to quality.

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