Today’s automobiles contain many complex electronic systems, each of which may incorporate a large number of electronic control units (ECUs) performing a single function, communicating through layers of networks. Even as complexity increases, design cycles are under pressure to shorten, so that manufacturers can deliver the latest in safety, fuel efficiency and convenience to consumers in a highly competitive industry. At the same time, quality and reliability remain of paramount concern. The challenges of managing these factors—complex technology, time-tomarket and quality—are dictating a new approach to automotive electronics, yet one that is as old as the automotive industry itself.

This white paper discusses the changes in automotive electronics that dictate the evolution to model-based design and virtual prototyping. Virtual prototyping is contrasted with bench testing to illustrate the specific differences. Other software-based modeling techniques are described to clarify the requirements of an effective model. Finally, virtual prototyping is explored in depth and an example of an automotive safety system designed using a model-based process is provided.