The technological ramp to fully autonomous vehicles presents significant challenges for companies developing autonomous vehicle programs. Advanced sensor technology, high-speed and high-bandwidth data networks, and cutting-edge artificial intelligence are all crucial to the functional and commercial success of autonomous vehicles.

Figure 1: A fully autonomous vehicle will require many types of sensors to accurately perceive dynamic driving environments.

SAE International defines six levels of sophistication for autonomous vehicles, from zero to five. A Level Two autonomous vehicle contains about 17 sensors. A Level Five car is projected to have more than 30 additional sensors of a much wider variety, as it will assume complete control over the driving task, requiring no human input (Figure 1). More sensors translate to a much more complex design task for engineers developing the electrical and electronic (E/E) systems of the vehicle.

Despite its challenges, autonomous drive is attracting a swath of new entrants to the automotive industry. These companies lack industry-specific experience and the engineering resources to brute-force their way through the complexities of autonomous vehicle design. Even the major automotive OEMs will face problems that their legacy design flows are ill-equipped to handle. To compete, these companies will need a new design methodology that enables young engineers to design accurate and optimized systems, which can only be done by capturing the experience and knowledge of veteran engineers.

Generative design takes system definitions and requirements as input and generates architectural proposals for the logic, software, hardware, and networks of the E/E systems using rules-based automation (Figure 2). These rules capture the knowledge and experience of the veteran engineers to guide younger engineers throughout the design. Capturing this IP helps companies develop both vehicle architectures and new generations of engineers as they learn and implement existing company knowledge.

Figure 2: Generative design uses rules-based automation to generate proposals for the logic, software, hardware, and networks of the E/E system.

Generative design empowers automotive engineers to tackle the challenges of E/E systems design for autonomous vehicles. It employs rules-based automation for rapid design synthesis, enables engineers to design in the context of a full vehicle platform, and tightly integrates various design domains to ensure data continuity. Engineers can perform detailed architectural explorations, rapidly incorporate change, and create a continuous digital thread from initial system definitions and requirements to full-scale production and service. The result is optimized, high-quality E/E systems design that take much less time and far fewer resources to complete.

The massive complexity inherent in autonomous vehicle design will continue to push the tools and methodologies used by automotive engineers. The winners in this disruptive technology will be those companies that can most effectively integrate the advanced technologies required for autonomous drive into a package that is reliable, safe, and attractive to consumers, and then get those technologies to market quickly and with a high level of quality. Generative design will be a key enabler for these companies as they contend with the most sophisticated designs yet seen in the industry.

This article was written by Doug Burcicki, Automotive Director, Integrated Electrical Systems, at Mentor, A Siemens Business (Wilsonville, OR). For more information, visit here.