October 31, 2005
Automotive Solutions from Mentor
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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In April I wrote an editorial pointing out the significant opportunity for electronics in the automotive industry and therefore the opportunity for EDA vendors to offer tools to support that market sector. Undoubtedly as a result of that article the very next month Mentor Graphics acquired Volcano Communications Technologies AB (VCT), a provider of network design tools, in vehicle software and test and validation products for the automotive industry, for a purchase price of $23 million. VCT customers include AUDI, BMW, Daimler Chrysler, Volkswagen, Volvo, Ford, Fiat, PSA, Bosch, Delphi, Magneti Marelli, Siemens VDO and Visteon. VCT was founded in 1998 and was headquartered in Gothenburg
Sweden. VCT's product portfolio includes network design tools, embedded software and test and validation tools for major automotive networks.

In March 2000, VCT joined Motorola Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Volvo Car Corporation, and Volkswagen to form the LIN consortium that defined a cost-competitive, sub-bus network solution. LIN complements Controller Area Network (CAN) solutions by providing customers with lower cost connections within local network clusters.

Volcano is also a member of Autosar (AUTomotive Open System Architecture) partnership which was formed in September 2003 by BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen, and automotive system suppliers, Bosch, Continental and Siemens VDO to jointly develop and commercially release a standardized Electrical/Electronic (E/E) architecture concept. The goals of this partnership include the standardization of basic system functions and functional interfaces, the ability to integrate and transfer functions and to substantially improve software updates and upgrades over the vehicle lifetime. The AUTOSAR scope includes body electronics, powertrain, chassis and safety as well as multimedia systems,
telematics and man-machine-interface.

Oct. 6, 2005 Mentor announced it had significantly extended its set of electrical and electronic design solutions for the automotive market with the recently acquired Volcano automotive networking solutions and SystemVision, a new modeling and simulation tool for automotive mechatronics sub-systems.

Before this announcement I had an opportunity to talk with Larry Anderson, Director of Marketing for Mentor's Automotive Networking Business Unit.

What is going on in the automotive sector at Mentor Graphics?

What we are seeing in this release are two things, a kind of automotive initiative of multiple products that address the electrical and electronic design process in automotive and the second is specifically two new items to that portfolio in the areas of automotive networking tool and mechatronic simulation.

We are doing more product development focused on emerging challenges, new markets such as transportation which will break down into auto, aero and rail. Obviously one of the things we have been doing is acquiring new technology from outside companies. When we do make acquisitions with companies that typically have small sales and marketing organizations, we marry them with our global sales and marketing distribution. It is really a win-win situation.

What is happening in the automotive industry to create so much interest with Mentor Graphics?

The bottom line is that automotive has become a sort of distributed computing challenge, distributed computing on wheels. Some of the high end luxury vehicles have upwards of 80 to 90 electronic control units, ECUs, all networked together controlling all of these distributed mechatronic systems like airbag inflation, antilock breaking, door lock, you name it.

We do see some differences in that time to market is not always the critical factor in this industry. It is really time to market plus warranty costs. Avoiding warranty cost in many cases is approaching even out stripping development cost and risk management and liability.

Mechanically dominated process in the past is becoming more and more electronic dominated: electrical distribution systems, automotive networks, the actual design of electronic control units, and embedded software development - making sure it all works together. Mentor is uniquely positioned in that we do have tools in all these areas to address the electrical and electronic design process. Many people have known Mentor from a PCB and FPGA standpoint. The design of an electronic control unit is similar to the design of a single board computer. We also have system integration, electrical distribution tools, the hardness tools and we have now added tools for network design and
mechatronics simulation. Mentor is the only EDA company with its own embedded software division. We also have a host of embedded IP that is targeted to automotive over and above the normal markets we serve like consumer electronics. A host of tools there.

You know Mentor from doing a lot of business in telecommunication, having customers like Ericsson, Nokia, Lucent etc. A lot of business was done in automotive was to tier two suppliers, the big semiconductor houses: Infineon, Freescale. We have done a lot of business especially with our cable harness tools in the major OEMs. We have a lot of major OEMs that are Mentor customers along with their tier one suppliers who are doing complex subsystem design. We have moved Mentor up in the value chain so to speak in automotive. Our goal would be that with these new tool additions to have an even more robust portfolio for these types of customers.

The trend in the nineteen seventies was for pretty simplistic electronic systems, maybe 3 or 4 systems, if you were lucky enough to have air conditioning. Pretty simple networks. Not a lot of traffic on these networks between the systems.

Since that time there has been an explosion in the number of electronic systems. A typical vehicle today might have a couple of dozen systems.
Each of these could be comprised of multiple ECUs that are networked and running a good amount of embedded software. To make it more complicated they're all talking to each other. Lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control are interacting. Body electronics in the man-machine interface are interacting. They are all basically sending signals over the same network. It's really become a difficult process because the OEM is getting a lot of these subsystem designs from their tier one suppliers and they are trying to integrate all of them to work at a system level. The tools we are going to talk about really address that system level design.

Continuing the trend there is a lot of simultaneous things that are happening with these controllers. In automotive you have much longer cycle times. In the mid eighties to mid nineties circa three years. We have vendor OEMs that are saying for a new platform there's a 2 year turn around cycle today. I was in Japan a couple of months ago talking with Densu who is a major supplier to Toyota. They were saying Toyota is striving for 12 month development cycles by the year 2010 that is approaching what we saw in consumer electronics and telecommunications in years past. So a lot of pressure there, the same as we have seen in other industries to get product out the door faster, to adapt
to changing markets like the emerging market in China or for example a new hybrid vehicle for fuel efficiency.

At the same time you have to try things out faster but the electronic content is growing dramatically. In this case a car in the 1970's 2% of the total car price was attributable to electronic development and content. In 2004, today's timeframe, we are seeing about a quarter of the total car price due to electronics and growing to 35% in 2010. I've had an executive at BMW tell me that in the seven series it could be as high as 40% to 50% by 2010. A lot of electronic content and again mechanically dominated and differentiated design process is moving more and more to electronics. Within electrical and electronic we are also talking about embedded software. OEMs are using better
software to differentiate their products.

At the same time they are being challenged to get more and more vehicle launches out, a lot of these are because of specialty brands like high end sports brand. Some of these brands are due to fuel efficiency like hybrid. Some brands are being developed for new and emerging markets. There's a huge opportunity that a lot of vendors see in China.

The vendors are trying to get out more products with more variants and options. Unfortunately they are doing this with less budget. R&D budgets remain flat at best. They need to develop more with less, be more efficient and meet all the constraints we just talked about.

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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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