By Pramod Thomas:
The US-based MathWorks, a leading developer of mathematical computing software,plays a pivotal role in the transition of automotives from purely mechanical to electronic and software components-driven products.The amount of software in a car is much more than that in a commercial aircraft. In this process the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) depend on software providers to stay ahead of competition. MathWorks provides a virtual arena to develop vehicles faster and more efficiently.
“In the last two or three decades, there has been an increase in the use of electronics and software in automotives. Today, there are not many fully mechanical systems. All systems are multi-domain: Mechanical, electrical, software and hydraulics. Our tools are employed to develop multi-domain systems which have mechanical, digital, hydraulics and software components. Our products -MATLAB and Simulink- are used to model multi-domain systems,” Kishore Rao, Managing Director, MathWorks India, told AutoParts Asia.
MathWorks India, a 100 per cent subsidiary of the US parent company, started direct operations in 2008. Before that it was represented in the country for 12 years through a distributor.
Companies use MATLAB to analyse data to predict vehicle performance. Simulink is a graphical tool to model complete systems.
“You can build an entire vehicle model or powertrain model in the system. You can also build a hybrid vehicle architecture in Simulink. While MATLAB is for data analytics, Simulink is used to build the entire system and simulate complete vehicle or vehicle sub-system in a graphical environment to test the performance of the system. The CAD companies serve only mechanical systems. As multi-domain, we are uniquely positioned and we have a clear advantage. Even in future, electronics and software trend is going to be predominant. Our software provides unique value proposition to our customers,” he said.
The MathWorks tools have reduced the automotive life cycle by eliminating the traditional processes of design, real time tests, prototype making and the like.“In our Simulink environment, OEMs can develop the entire simulation of the multi-domain system on the software. Error, if any, can be identified early through a virtual prototype and verification, instead of building the physical prototype. Testing also can be done on the software. In Simulink OEMs can model mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, or software into a system. They can do testing in a virtual environment. In the model-based designing, OEMs design the model on the software and do the simulation, validation, verification, and testing in the virtual way. It significantly reduces the time taken to develop a new product,” Rao said.
When a manufacturer develops a control system, to control battery or any other system in an automotive, there is an electronic control unit (ECU). In Simulink he can simulate the entire control system and if satisfied with the performance he can automatically generate the code using an Embedded Coder, another product of MathWorks.
“In Simulink, once you are satisfied with the developed system, you can automatically generate code using the Embedded Coder. Then it can be embedded in a processor that is on the vehicle. It gets the end C-code. Instead of someone manually writing C-code, where there can be so many errors. In MATLAB and Simulink we provide all the building blocks and a rough architecture. Customers can customise those into their own environment as their vehicle architecture could vary. We also provide a reference model. Using these tools they can quickly build their own vehicle architecture. We provide lots of basic tools in the software itself,” he said.
MathWoks releases at least two new products every year. The latest products are Automated Driving System Toolbox, and Powertrain Blockset. The Automated Driving System Toolbox provides algorithms and tools for designing and testing ADAS and autonomous driving systems. OEMs can automate ground-truth labelling, generate synthetic sensor data for driving scenarios, perform multi-sensor fusion, and design and simulate vision systems. It supports multi-sensor fusion development with Kalman filters, assignment algorithms, motion models, and a multi-object tracking framework. Algorithms for vision system design include lane marker detection, vehicle detection with machine learning, including deep learning, and image-to-vehicle coordinate transforms.
The Powertrain Blockset provides fully-assembled reference application models of automotive powertrains, including gasoline, diesel, hybrid, and electric systems. It provides a standard model architecture that can be reused throughout the development process and can be used for design trade-off analysis and component sizing, control parameter optimisation, and hardware-in-the-loop testing. OEMs can customise models by parameterising components in a reference application with their own data or by replacing a subsystem with own model.
“Systems are getting more and more complex. For a hybrid vehicle you have a traditional powertrain coupled with a battery. So, again it is multi-domain. There are electrical systems, mechanical systems and then you are talking of alternate fuel, or hydrogen based systems, and then you bring in a different domain. MATLAB, and Simulink, along with the model-based design, allow you to model these multi-domain systems. That is why our tools are extensively used by almost all the automotive OEMs; right from Toyota to Fiat Chrysler, from BMW to Tata Motors to Ashok Leyland to Mahindra. We have a very strong customer base in the automotive industry,” Rao said.
MathWorks tools are very efficient in facing the challenge of obsolescence as it allows to reuse most of the designs that were already developed.“Suppose you develop a sub-system using a certain combination of mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and software, it will be there in the Simulink environment. You can use this across different platforms. But it is not static. Every year you can make modifications to the same model and enhance that. That way you are not doing a design and then archiving that and after a few years you realise that it has become obsolete. Instead, you are continuously enhancing functions in the virtual environment. Then cater to better requirements in future,” he said.
Now, everything in a vehicle is controlled by software. Take the example of lighting, it is very complex today. The lighting technology has evolved quite a bit. MathWorks plays a big role in providing electronically-controlled lighting configurations. Companies like Hella are using its tools. “You can use MathWorks tools to develop all the electronically-controlled systems. Whether it is air-conditioning, lighting, wiper control-all these are electronically- controlled today. In the wiper system, when rain falls on the wiper it starts working. You don’t need to activate the wiper in high-end cars. In short you can electronically control a lot of mechanical components. This will help you to stay ahead of competition,” Rao said.
“Safety, autonomous or automated driving system, hybrid and electronic powertrain-based system, and fuel economy and emission control are the four important driving forces in the automotive industry now. In all these areas electronics and software play a big part in enabling vehicles to meet the expectations of the customer.Electronics, software and advanced control systems help the vehicle manufacturers provide the functionalities according to the needs of the customer. MathWorks tools are the popular choice to develop these features. Wherever there is the use of electronics and software, we play a very big role,” Rao said.
MathWorks tools are in a very open environment. MATLAB can support all kinds of sensors and data that are brought into its environment to analyse. In a car, you have data coming from ECUs through telematics and MATLAB can take all of them.
There are many standard exchange platforms. Data can be exchanged within different systems. As Simulink is so open, people are using it for complete vehicle model.
The increased use of software raises the issue of cyber security. “We comply to a lot of cyber security standards for the embedded software that is automatically generated from the simulation environment. We continue to invest in this new area to provide more and more capabilities. If a customer generates embedded code from our system we are able to provide them very high level of security on that automatically generated code. We are quite high in industry standards with Autosar and ISO 26262,” Rao said.
MathWorks India has a very strong customer base in the country. It has over 600 commercial customers, over 1200 academic customers and employs 400 people.
Automotive is the biggest industry segment for the company. It is headquartered in Bangalore and has branch offices in Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad. The company has presence in Kolkata as well.
“In MathWorks India we have a sales team which focuses on the domestic business and supports our customers. We also have a development centre in Bangalore that works along with our worldwide development centres. As much as 85 per cent of our total revenue comes from commercial operations and only 15 per cent is from the academia. Significant parts of our core products were developed in India. Whatever is developed here goes into our global product portfolio. In india, roughly 200 people are in the product development area. Our head count doubled in one year. We are a fast growing company and expect the momentum to continue,” Rao said.