One million lines of mechatronics code are embedded in the average automobile--a statistic that keeps auto industry executives awake at night. Here's why: The synergistic integration of electromechanical components that use embedded software accounts for up to 35 percent of automotive quality problems and 55 percent of repair costs, according to AMR Research. Common troubles caused by mechatronics include poor testability and difficulties predicting the negative impact of system failures.
Yet, even in the face of mounting quality issues and additional sleepless nights, automakers believe mechatronics will continue to play a key role in the future of the industry. That's because electromechanical components enable automakers to outfit vehicles with important safety equipment, such as rear-view cameras, not to mention consumer electronics gadgets that car buyers crave.
Not surprisingly, the number of lines of mechatronics code is expected to grow by 50 to 100 times in the next three to five years. That means automakers must scramble to find ways to address a looming, industry-wide quality crisis.
A number of factors account for the lack of progress in addressing quality problems created by mechatronics, according to Joe Barkai, practice director at Manufacturing Insights, an IDC company. Among them are increased time-to-market pressures and auto manufacturers' need to reduce R&D costs. Furthermore, according to Barkai, current computer-aided engineering (CAE) and product lifecycle management (PLM) tools do not fully support whole system simulation and testing. So far, in fact, none of the major vendors of CAE and PLM tools have announced software packages or modules that directly address the issue, Barkai says.
"Current PLM and CAE tools do not offer enough in whole system simulation and testing," Barkai says. "Right now, PLM solutions only reside on the PowerPoint platform, which means that PLM vendors are only able to talk about them. PLM suppliers talk about the need to locate systems engineering in the embedded software, but they really do not have much to offer. PLM companies need to manage the different clock speeds of development and also support whole system simulation. The bottom line is that PLM vendors don't have the answer yet."
Source: Managing Automation, http://www.managingautomation.com
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