The automotive industry faces pressure from buyers for more features with frequent updates while driving down system and development costs. As product life cycles decrease, time is of the essence to understand the latest feature trends, cost-effective component selections, and design solutions. This predicament has created an opportunity for innovation in electronic architecture design in many areas of the vehicle, not the least of which is the cockpit.
The central premise that has sustained for decades is that with a new electronic technology, comes an additional ECU. This progression of electronically controlled features created a scenario where many new vehicles today can have as many as 60 to 100, or even more, distinct ECUs in the vehicle. This drives up hardware and software costs, complicates operations, increases engineering complexity, slows down time-to-market availability, and makes the vehicle heavier with each additional ECU.
This is true not only for the cockpit environment but also for various other areas within the vehicle. The industry as a whole is experiencing a consolidation of ECUs in ADAS and safety, body, chassis, and emissions controllers.
In the future, IHS Markit anticipates that vehicles will rely on about 10 dedicated domain controllers that manage each of the major electronics systems in the car.
An ADAS domain controller, for example, comprises hardware, domain-specific middleware, and a software toolset needed to develop machine-learning and deep-learning algorithms for autonomous driving applications that can support integration of data from cameras, radars, and lidar sensors.
Chassis domain controllers, on the other hand, allow for fusion of inertia sensor signals to coordinate vehicle stability control, semi-active suspension, and drivetrain applications.
The CDC introduces a new automotive electrical network architecture from a hardware standpoint, but the hope is that it will also put forward a robust foundation for the software evolution that the car industry is dealing with, i.e., remote software updates, cybersecurity, data monetization, and software-based recall issues, among others.
In summary, an opportunity or requirement presented itself for a consolidation of these electronic components into fewer but larger, higher-powered ECUs that can handle multiple operating systems. These domain ECUs consist of powerful SoCs, memory chips, sensors, and software that replace multiple small ECUs.
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