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Before Your Next Project: 10 Questions to Ask Your Automotive Tier 1 Supplier

Modern motor vehicles are digital and electromechanical marvels, incorporating ever-greater numbers of increasingly complex, computer-controlled components and subsystems. As a result, ‘systems integration’ has become an integral part of vehicle development programs, as vehicle manufacturers bring aboard new technologies from their supplier networks.

Technical managers are wondering how to jump start their vehicle development programs while leveraging their existing Tier 1 (and other) resources. At one extreme, one might ask if there is an effective way to verify the integration of supplied ‘black box’ systems; at the other extreme one might ask how to efficiently explore thousands of tuning parameters (and whether the ability to do so is a blessing or a curse!).

The Black Box

One effective approach is to trade black box software updates with suppliers throughout the development process. For example, a vehicle manufacturer might provide an ECU supplier with a compiled lumped parameter vehicle model that is suitable for simulation purposes, and in turn receive a compiled model of a control system with the appropriate tuning hooks. But as models on both sides of the fence become more complex and human interaction comes into play for features such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) or Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) systems, new demands are placed upon traditional Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) and Software-in-the-Loop (SIL) simulation resources.   In short, defining inputs and outputs, both literally and figuratively, has become an increasingly difficult task.

Enter engineering class Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulation. Early and often contact between real people and prototype systems is often the only way to practically safeguard the process of systems integration. This is why DIL simulation is such a high energy topic in engineering circles.


Ten Questions to Ask Your Automotive Tier 1 Supplier

If you are already including DIL simulation in your standard development cycle, here are ten questions to ask your Tier 1 supplier that will help you make the most of it:

  1. Can we take delivery of software models or (prototype) hardware systems sooner?

If you have engineering class DIL simulation technology in-house, then you are already poised to connect, and you can bring in the models and systems as soon as possible.

  1. Can we simultaneously decrease the number of real (hardware) iterations while increasing the number of virtual iterations?

The overt efficiency of DIL simulation makes it feasible to process (many) more iterations in a compressed timeframe.

  1. Are the provided software models compatible with real-time simulation?

If the precedent is to receive Simulink ® (or other) models that are only suitable for use with off-line vehicle models, new processes should be put into play since real-time execution of models is a must.

  1. Are there software model restrictions regarding interplay with other systems?

A true black box has only inputs and outputs – but sometimes further definitions regarding I/O streaming protocols are also required.

  1. Can the (supplier’s) in-house development tool sets be defined, accessed, or shared?

Closer partnerships with suppliers can result from being able to work with - and within - their systems.

  1. Does the supplier use Driver-in-the-Loop technology in its own development process?

Suppliers who work with DIL technology themselves are more likely to understand how you’ll use it to evaluate their components, models, and sub-systems.

  1. What vehicle information is needed from you in order to develop a dedicated system?

Sharing explicit performance targets, technical requirements, use cases, and models as they evolve can lead to fewer unscheduled changes and delays.

  1. What software restrictions (if any) affect the use of models that are shared both ways?

It is always better to be clear up front about what is possible and what is not.

  1. Can software model implementation assumptions be shared?

Assumptions are ever-present in engineering endeavors. The idea is not to eliminate them, but share them as openly as possible in order to avoid costly surprises.

  1. Are there any (supplier side) recommendations beyond the (receiver side) planned testing and simulation program?

A vehicle manufacturer typically assumes the role of top level system integrator, wherein system function and compatibility requirements flow primarily downstream. Just as the best managers are often the best listeners, sometimes verification protocols can and should be brought upstream from Tier 1 suppliers.


The Pursuit of Excellence

The utilization of next-generation DIL simulation technology has proven to be a cost effective way to fine tune automotive manufacturer / Tier 1 supplier relationships and upgrade product offerings from “acceptable” to excellent. The mere availability of Driver-in-the-Loop simulation, by its very nature, can help set the criteria for excellence, since engineering class DIL is aimed squarely at connecting real people with the implementation of new technologies.

With Tier 1 suppliers at the forefront of developing the latest ADAS functions and control systems, automobile manufacturers can plug in early to emerging layers that have a strong influence how their vehicles feel to a driver. Conversely, system suppliers gain advanced access to the virtual proving ground and vehicles in which their systems are evaluated, accepted, and ultimately deployed. The essence is that DIL simulation brings manufacturers and suppliers into closer and more regular contact during the development process, onto common ground that helps both parties achieve what they ultimately want: to sell good product.

To learn more about how Driver-in-the-Loop simulation can assist with the development of on-board vehicle systems, download our FREE eBook, “Looking down the road: Harnessing the benefits of driving simulator technology”:


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