The Keys to it All – the Virtual ECU and Software Engineering

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This blog series has shed light on the benefits of creating a virtual environment for vehicle testing and calibration activities (“Automotive Testing in the Virtual World”). From recreating real-world scenarios ondemand to developing software and hardware in parallel, the virtual environment is highly efficient and effective for embedded systems. We’ve also looked at specific benefits to taking calibration (“Virtual Calibration – Reducing Resources, Time”) and verification and validation (“Virtual Validation and Verification for Embedded Systems”) activities to a virtual setting. In this final post of the series we are focusing on the foundational element to make all this a reality – the virtual ECU.  

Simply put, the virtual ECU is a digital twin of the real ECU. It contains all the necessary components and functions that replicate the behavior of a real ECU without the dependency on hardware. This allows the virtual ECU to be run anywhere – on a standard PC or laptop or the cloud. Ideally, the virtual ECU is developed in parallel to the real ECU software that outlines how components work together and functions behave in the vehicle. 

Setting your strategy 

So, you may be asking yourself – how do I set a virtualization strategy? That’s where ETAS can help. We can not only help in creating a virtualization strategy, we also can provide consultation, tools and services for the development of the virtual ECU. It’s important to understand that taking the step to have a virtualization strategy in place may require an adjustment in the way your company currently operates and approaches virtualization. Ideally, you would create an overall virtualization strategy, taking an organizational approach rather than department by department to realize the benefits of virtualization, including: 

  • Reducing the time and cost to travel to environments that provide desired testing scenarios (weather, altitude, etc.) 
  • Recreating real-world scenarios on-demand 
  • Being able to customize the testing of one technology from vehicle to vehicle  
  • Testing earlier in development process, shortening the time to market 
  • Developing software and hardware in parallel 
  • Streamlining the amount of testing needed as technologies become more advanced 
  • Safely testing critical or hazardous situations 

With this approach, the development of virtual ECUs would become part of the software engineering departments responsibilities and priorities. As a result, the software build process could create the real ECU software (HEX file) as well as a virtual ECU (PC executable). And when partnering with ETAS, traditional roadblocks such as software engineers spending time building specific versions of software to test could be eliminated because we can provide support in software development.  

How ETAS can help 

Our team of experts can help in a number of key ways: 

  • We can assist in analyzing the current ECU software and software architecture to make recommendations on how to virtualize the ECU 
  • If we are brought in to help work on the software, we can build the virtual ECU as a service. 
  • We ensure everything in the virtual ECU seamlessly fits together – creation of the virtual ECU, simulation in the cloud, plant models and virtual calibration.

Because we have the tools and experience for the entire development cycle, ETAS is uniquely positioned to help develop an overall strategy and seamless toolchain to execute that strategy.  

As technology advances, ETAS will be on the forefront, providing a software development process and infrastructure as a service in the cloud. This will allow customers to benefit from virtualization, concentrating on their core competencies while ETAS takes care of the tools and processes needed.  

If you are looking to leverage the multiple benefits provided by virtual testing or calibration, then a virtual ECU is the answerFor most companies, making this an effective and efficient process requires an overall organization virtualization strategy that will prioritize this task.   

To learn more about virtualization or virtual ECUs, contact us.