How End-To-End Solutions Support Tomorrow’s Automotive Electrical Systems

The complexities of autonomy and electrification are driving significant changes to vehicle E/E architectures.


We are living in a time of significant change and disruption in the automotive industry. The amount of electrical and electronic content in today’s vehicles continues to explode as consumers demand greater personalization of products and regular feature updates, and as tomorrow’s technologies such as autonomous and electric drive continue to develop. Meanwhile, established carmakers are grappling (and sometimes partnering) with newcomer OEMs and tech companies, while also having to deal with changing ownership preferences.

Indeed, all firms in the auto supply chain, from the old guard nameplates to Silicon Valley and Chinese start-ups, are facing an unprecedented level of competitive pressure – coupled with new opportunities to gain customers and market share. And all this churn has some very real effects when it comes to how electrical and electronic (E/E) vehicle architectures, which are more complex than ever, are designed today.

E/E complexity is manifested in the changing nature of network and architecture design. Across a wide spectrum of technical requirements — bandwidth, weight, cost, CPU utilization and so on — manual design processes are giving way to an automated, metric-driven approach. Advanced design tools encourage iteration, building in configurable metrics to help engineers refine the network architecture or design rule checks as they go. Such tools also allow for visualizing the network subnets and overriding parameters such as node-IDs, priority or value tables, which in turn enables further refinement of messages and signals early on in the design process.

Another driving force behind the explosion of E/E complexity is the growing importance of automotive embedded software. The average vehicle today contains around 150 million software lines of code (SLOC), more than double what some experts predicted even just a few years ago. Software has become a critical piece of not only passenger comfort and entertainment features, but also safety systems and basic vehicle functionalities. The ongoing development of autonomous and electric vehicles will only reinforce the importance of embedded software to vehicle functionality, making it a crucial aspect of future vehicle development.

Global trends impact E/E architectures

Autonomy and electrification are demanding, or enabling, significant changes to E/E architectures. This is due in part to the introduction of high voltages, increased safety considerations and significant weight reductions needed to maximize EV range from electrification. Autonomy’s impacts include the need for ‘fail operational’ designs, hugely increased data network loading and enhanced virtual validation requirements.

Fig. 1: The rise of electrification and autonomy are requiring, and sometimes enabling, entirely novel vehicle architectures.

These trends are coming soon and in many ways are already upon us, despite a fair bit of industry hype. At a recent count there are approximately 300 companies developing electric cars and light trucks, with approximately 100 companies having announced autonomous drive programs. The list of countries with announced plans to ban fossil fuel vehicles covers some of the most important markets, including China. Also noteworthy is the number of major automakers that have announced ambitious electrification plans. Volkswagen’s announcement of “Roadmap E” may well be one of the most comprehensive electrification initiatives in the industry. The roadmap includes 80 new EVs by 2025 and plans to spend more than €50 billion in battery cells, one of the largest procurements in industry history.

Electric vehicles dominate the thinking of all automotive leaders today. Concern about electric drive technologies jumped from number 10 to number 1 in the last three years, according to a KPMG survey of auto execs. In the same survey, electric vehicle-related technologies occupy three of the top four slots, displacing usual business concerns like emerging market growth or big data.

The digital twin of electrical systems

Though software and services matter more than ever, the global auto industry remains a manufacturing juggernaut. Nearly 100 million vehicles are produced annually by an industry that, despite the rise of automation, still directly employs around 9 million people and indirectly creates many times that number of jobs. The process of building cars (and indeed building almost everything else) has been transformed by digital twin tools which mirror the entire value chain, from design and testing through to manufacturing and even service.

Today’s advanced E/E systems engineering software solutions enable true multi-domain systems engineering with a comprehensive digital twin, which is an absolute necessity to effectively develop today’s highly integrated automotive products. In particular, the Capital product portfolio provides an integrated, end-to-end E/E systems development environment that can transform design capabilities across organizations (figure 2).

Fig. 2: An end-to-end E/E systems development environment can help transform design capabilities with complete data continuity throughout development and true systems engineering.

Indeed, one of the biggest values engineering software tools can deliver is to vastly improve the upfront functional system design, ensuring it is correct by construction and set up to remain tightly linked, via the digital thread, to the eventual physical implementation. Even today, many early functional models created by engineering teams do not contain all the necessary information to influence the other design domains of software, electrical distribution, networks and mechanical. This, of course, is not due to deficiencies among the aptitudes of the engineers themselves. It’s just that no matter their skills and training, the sheer amount of complexity both within and across technical domains is simply impossible to account for in any detailed way.

With Capital, engineers can define system architectures and then, using built-in metrics and design rule checks, compare and contrast multiple potential architectures to ensure the platform design meets the original intent. Using an advanced generative engineering approach, Capital can then automatically synthesize the wiring schematics from the logical connectivity design, taking into account the mechanical constraints. Systems devices are automatically placed, interconnected and the entire wiring system automatically generated using rules and constraints embedded by the OEM into the software. The result is the completion of design tasks that once took months in mere hours or days. Also, critically, the designs can be verified as they are created to ensure they are correct on delivery. Data can be reused across vehicle programs and in the downstream processes of manufacturing and service.

Powerful design tools paint digitized, data-rich pictures of nuanced functional designs that give data on signal, message, part definitions and other attributes. Once this data is captured, it’s that much easier to build robust network, software and platform topologies, apply design rule checks and ultimately create the logical and physical topologies that are the last step before actually generating a physical harness.

Confronting the challenges of tomorrow with the digital twin

Common trends across the automotive, aerospace, off-highway and adjacent industries are causing dramatic changes in the nature and challenges of product development. Product complexity is growing rapidly, driven primarily by new features and capabilities supported by E/E systems. The mounting challenge of complexity, however, is the result of more than just a raw increase in E/E content. Enabling the advanced features expected in the products of today requires an integration of components from across domains. Mechanical, electrical, electronics, and embedded software all must come together to implement desirable features, including autonomy, connectivity and electrification.

An integrated, end-to-end E/E systems development environment will support companies as they strive to overcome complexity and reduce time to market. Capital, from Siemens Digital Industries Software, features unparalleled reach to drive electrical distribution system, networks and embedded software design, as well as the creation of manufacturing and product service deliverables from the E/E architecture. As a part of the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio, tight integration with mechanical, PLM, simulation and manufacturing planning solutions ensure that E/E systems designs support model-based systems engineering, contributing to a comprehensive digital twin of the product and production methods.

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