Autonomous vehicles, new tech drive automotive test market
There once was a time when the most sophisticated electronic testing instrument for automobiles was the dwell meter. Well, needless to say—that was then. Today’s vehicles are rapidly become more electronic than mechanical, and that’s reflected in the healthy state of the market for automotive test, expected to grow from some $442 million last year to just over $600 million annually by 2021, according to the report on the sector, “Automotive Test Equipment Market,” produced by Markets and Markets.1
A major factor is the advent of the autonomous vehicle. Every major automotive manufacturer including GM, Ford, Hyundai, and BMW plans to release an autonomous vehicle by 2020, noted Anjelica Warren, National Instruments product marketing manager for DAQ and control.
She explained that the push toward level 5 autonomous driving is fueling an increased need for sensor stimulus as a part of hardware in-the-loop (HIL) testing for software validation at system and subsystem levels as well as the use case for two or more types of sensors for intelligent decision-making toward active safety functionality. “For example, cameras are useful for determining what objects are, but radar is better at determining where objects are,” she said. “Both sensors are needed for an effective emergency braking system.”
Further, she said, “ADAS architectures are evolving from smart sensors with decentralized processing to sensor fusion, where raw sensor data is combined with radar, LiDAR, cameras, and V2X communication in a centralized processing unit. Additionally, autonomous vehicles are using machine-learning techniques, so the software is constantly changing and needs to be validated against an almost endless number of scenarios to ensure safety and compliance.”
Warren also commented on ISO 26262, the functional safety standard that states that all interactions between vehicle systems and subsystems must be known. “The combination of all the subsystems complicates how you can test these vehicles, which require millions of miles of test driving to prove that they are safe,” she said. “To meet external safety and customer demands and internal time-to-market and cost pressures, you need a platform able to fully emulate and test ADAS, V2X, infotainment, powertrain, and body and chassis hardware and software as integrated systems instead of just discreet subsystems.”
Averna shared a case study2 that illustrates the complexities of today’s automotive test, focusing on the rapid rise of onboard systems under the “collision avoidance” function. All those systems, combining technologies such as RF and microwave circuitry plus radar, lasers, cameras, and control systems, represent far more complexity than many test systems can readily handle—leading to much more time-consuming and therefore costly testing. In the case study, Averna describes how the company was able to slash radar-unit testing time by largely reengineering the testing process. A spokesperson said the system incorporates an NI Vector Signal Transceiver, a 6 DOF robot, and anechoic chambers in a flexible, transportable design that can be easily expanded or upgraded.
IC design and test
Quality and safety concerns extend from the system and subsystem level all the way to the IC level. Consequently, Mentor Graphics recently announced ISO 26262 qualification for its Oasys-RTL, Nitro-SoC, and FormalPro Logic Equivalency Checker products as part of the expansion of its Mentor Safe functional safety assurance program. The goal is to enable customers to streamline their critical IC design tasks while meeting the automotive industry’s stringent functional-safety requirements. (See “Standards and certifications guide technology developments”) Another company addressing semiconductor quality for the automotive industry is Optimal+, which is using what it’s calling its Suppliers Quality Network (SQN) to facilitate data sharing between IC manufacturers and their customers with an initial emphasis on the automotive industry. (See “OCMs, OEMs sharing data creates a win-win”)
Also addressing IC quality is KLA-Tencor, which specializes in spotting defects that can hurt yields. Indeed, faults are central to the views of Rob Cappel, senior director of marketing at the company. For example, some KLA-Tencor tools measure line widths and look for overlays between layers. Cappel explained that these techniques must now be applied and refined for the evolving needs of the auto industry. “In the last few years, automotive semiconductor requirements have begun to be driven by autonomous-driving features,” he said.
Automotive suppliers are realizing that as you bring in these features, you can no longer have failures, so they are driving for an unheard-of defect level of zero parts per million, he explained. However, many industry test processes just verify electrical functionality and can’t look for potential failure points that might break down in the field. “This is really an inflection point with automotive equipment makers, and we think it is a trend that will continue,” said Cappel.
KLA-Tencor’s systems include the 8920 patterned wafer broad range inspection (BRI) system, which detects a variety of defect types at high throughput for fast identification and resolution of production process issues and which supports automotive and power-device manufacturing.
Taking a broad look at automotive test, the authors of the Markets and Markets report cite the increasing demand for onboard diagnostic (OBD) testing and a growing chassis dynamometer test-equipment market, driven both by more stringent regulations and an increase in the number of vehicle-manufacturing facilities in developing countries. Indeed, another report from Future Market Insights3 notes that much of the demand may come from outside of the U.S. or Canada.
Still, the Motor City is the place to be, and that’s where this year’s Automotive Testing Expo will be held from October 24-26 in nearby Novi, MI. The event will be co-located with Engine Expo North America and Automotive Interiors Expo North America. Some 300 companies (including Optimal+ making its case for SQN) are expected to exhibit at the event, and several shared their views on the key issues facing the industry.
For one thing, the maturing Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) market—seen as key to more advanced transportation systems—is awaiting a decision from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), noted Craig Hendricks, senior sales engineer, automotive, at Anritsu. Until this decision is finalized, there will be some question as to the role DSRC technology will play in V2X (vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure). “Test companies will have to be prepared for all scenarios by developing flexible solutions that can test DSRC and other emerging technologies,” he said.
A second challenge is the higher data rates associated with cellular signals used in automotive applications as the industry moves from LTE-AP to 5G. That will require expanded measurement capability and improved accuracy to ensure operation of these systems, many of which are critical to the development of ADAS and Autonomous vehicles, he explained.
“Traditional design/manufacturing paradigms are in a state of accelerated change,” said Wilson Lee, technical marketing manager at Tektronix. That includes the growing importance of managing big data. At a high level, this requires companies serving the automotive space to be much more nimble and precise in navigating design complexities as well as safety and compliance standards, Lee said.
“With the increased complexity of electronics in automobiles, we’ve seen more and more requirements for hardware-in-the-loop simulation (HILS)—for example, simulating the reaction of an automotive ECU to fault conditions such as a broken wire or faulty temperature sensor,” noted Shaun Fuller, switching product manager at Pickering Interfaces. Two key components for HILS are fault insertion switching and programmable resistance, he said.
Sensor fusion and DAQ
Several companies shared information about their exhibit plans and new offerings. According to Warren, National Instruments will focus on three main areas:
The CompactDAQ platform (Figure 1) now includes the CompactDAQ Ethernet Chassis with TSN (Time Sensitive Networking), which was released at NIWeek 2017. The rugged multislot Ethernet chassis is designed to help engineers shorten setup time by simplifying the synchronization of distributed systems, noted Warren. The chassis provide sub-microsecond time synchronization over standard Ethernet and an integrated network switch for simple daisy-chaining. The chassis can lower the cost of cabling and increase accuracy with reliable operation in harsh environments closer to the device under test.
LabVIEW NXG 1.0 is the first release of the next generation of LabVIEW engineering system design software. LabVIEW NXG helps engineers performing benchtop measurements drastically increase their productivity with new nonprogramming workflows to acquire and iteratively analyze measurement data, Warren explained. These nonprogramming workflows simplify automation by building the necessary code behind the scenes.
The Sensor Fusion HIL Test Solution, developed by ADAS iiT using the NI platform, combines real-time simulation and dynamic scene generation with sensor stimulus including radar, LiDAR, and camera sensors with V2X communication protocols into a comprehensive HIL tester for active safety systems. This solution performs target emulation to simulate real-world driving conditions using VeriStand, NI’s HIL application software, and IPG CarMaker running on an HIL simulator (Figure 2).
According to Warren, NI can deliver a flexible and future-proof system to meet automotive test demands “from concept through production today and tomorrow.”
Switching and simulation
The products and demonstrations in the Pickering Interfaces booth will emphasize signal switching and simulation for test, according to Fuller. To that end, the focus will be on key product families.
For example, the PXI fault-insertion switching modules (Figure 3) are designed for use with differential serial interfaces. The differential PXI fault-insertion switch (Model 40-200) is designed for lower data rate serial interfaces such as CAN and FlexRay, and the high bandwidth differential PXI fault insertion switch (Model 40-201) is designed for higher data-rate serial interfaces such as AFDX and 1000BaseT Ethernet. “An example of our product development philosophy is our Model 40-200 and 40-201 PXI fault insertion switches,” noted Fuller. “They are particularly unique in that they are the only impedance-controlled fault-insertion switches in PXI that address differential serial bus requirements for transportation applications such as CAN, FlexRay, or Ethernet for automotive,” he added.
Examples of Pickering’s range of PXI and PCI programmable resistance modules will also be on hand, with up to 18 channels in a single PXI/PCI slot. Resistance ranges from 1 Ω to 22 MΩ with resolutions down to 2 mΩ with accuracies down to 0.03%. The product families range from simple resistor ladder circuits to precision modules than can simulate RTD devices, strain gauges, and other transportation sensors, Fuller said.
In addition, he said, Pickering Interfaces, in partnership with OPAL-RT Technologies, has designed a low-cost Modular Breakout System (MBoS) that combines OPAL-RT’s Breakout Box (BoB) feature set with added flexibility and Pickering’s fault-insertion unit (FIU) chassis. By mating the FIU chassis directly to the MBoS, cabling is minimized, creating a more compact reliable design and improving signal integrity.
Cell and converter test
Among the latest innovations Keysight will introduce at the event include the BT2191A self-discharge measurement system for Li-ion cell R&D and the BT2152A self-discharge analyzer for Li-ion cell manufacturing test as well as the EV1003A hybrid-electric/electric-vehicle power-converter test solution (Figure 4).
Other offerings from Keysight to support the fast-growing ADAS and connected-car industries include the Keysight Automotive Radar R&D solution, which performs analysis and generation of automotive radar signals at 77 GHz and 79 GHz. It is a scalable test platform. When equipped with the SystemVue Automotive Radar Library and Radar Antenna Test options, it offers the higher frequency and wider bandwidth performance required today, and also supports rapid changes in requirements, the company said.
Keysight will also highlight its Signal Studio software together with its signal generator and analyzer, which provide powerful and easy-to-use tests to validate the performance of satellite radio receivers. In addition, Keysight’s Virtual Drive Testing Toolset is an automated, lab-based performance and interoperability test solution for cost-effective assessment of mobile devices and network infrastructure in realistic environmental scenarios. And finally, automotive Ethernet and serial bus testing is available from Keysight’s latest BroadR-Reach Compliance solutions.
Other companies highlighting bench and rack-mount instruments include Anritsu, Tektronix, and Teledyne LeCroy. Anritsu plans to show its MD8475B signaling tester and its new 1-Gb/s IP data communications throughput testing capability. Hendricks explained that the MD8475B supports 4×4 MIMO with 256QAM high-order modulation and four component carrier aggregation. Hendricks said the MD8475B is the only LTE cellular network simulator that can reach up to 1-Gb/s throughput testing with a single instrument, improving efficiency and lowering test costs. “It creates a highly stable, highly reproducible evaluation environment to address current mobile device operation challenges associated with higher load conditions common on today’s networks,” said Hendricks.
Anritsu will also show the MT8862A wireless connectivity test set (Figure 5) that is capable of supporting various WLAN protocol standards, such as IEEE 802.11ac/n/a/g/b. It can conduct RF TX and RX testing in signaling mode for 802.11ac. Its ability to simulate a WLAN access point or WLAN station makes the MT8862A suitable for verifying a WLAN hotspot in a vehicle.
The MS269xA signal-analyzer family that includes swept spectrum analysis, FFT signal analysis, and a precision digitizer function, will also be on display, according to Hendricks. For in-vehicle network testing and verification there is the Spectrum Master MS2720T handheld spectrum analyzer that supports LTE measurements.
Tektronix will be exhibiting the MDO4000C mixed-domain oscilloscope (Figure 6), RSA306B real-time spectrum analyzer, RSA500 real-time spectrum analyzer, RSA600 real-time spectrum analyzer, Signal Vu PC software, the IsoVu differential probing solution, and two new products: the new MSO 5 Series oscilloscope, launched in June, and the new TTR 500 Series vector network analyzer, introduced in April, according to Lee.
And finally, Teledyne LeCroy will highlight its line of instruments that can assist in CAN bus testing, EMC testing, torque testing, general debugging, Bluetooth testing, or automotive Ethernet testing. “In addition to providing companies with the tools needed to gain insight, we also provide training, because we feel with the right tools and the right knowledge, our customers can achieve solutions faster and more effectively,” a spokesperson for the Automotive Solutions Group said. “Faster time to insight enables users to rapidly find and fix defects in complex electronic systems, dramatically improving time-to-market for a wide variety of applications and end markets.”
- Automotive Test Equipment Market worth 600.7 Million USD by 2021, Markets and Markets, July 2016.
- Better Automation for Automotive Radar Testing, Averna (Video), June 7, 2017.
- Automotive Test Equipment Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2015-2025, Future Market Insights, October 2017
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