Model Based Design Saves the U.S. Auto Industry…?

By Dean ~ December 20th, 2008. Filed under: Modeling, Systems Engr..

With all of the challenges facing the U.S. auto industry, I am thrilled share this story (sorry, subscription required) from the Automotive News.  (h/t to the post on CNET’s CarTech blog for picking up, and summarizing, the story.)

Employing model based design will allow GM’s engineers to significantly reduce their time to market for hybrid powertrains while readily managing the complexity of this challenging mission critical system design problem.  I liked this story both because it really highlights the benefits of a modeling and simulation based design flow and it also shows how technological innovation might just help our domestic automotive industry return to a position of strength.

General Motors, racing to bring hybrid vehicles to market faster, is turning to simulation to lop weeks off the time required to design and develop software control systems for hybrid powertrains.

And it goes beyond hybrids. GM is using technology known as model-based design from MathWorks Inc., of Natick, Mass., to develop software control systems for all new GM powertrains around the world.

This software, called Simulink, allows GM to simulate the control system for any GM powertrain before committing to the hardware.

“I don’t think you could do a hybrid control system without model-based design and development,” said Kent Helfrich, director of software engineering in GM Powertrain. “Hybrid powertrains are far more complex than those built around internal combustion engines and require sophisticated software controls.”

Of course, I agree completely with Mr. Helfrich.  My only reservation is that this is a perfect application for Foresight’s tools.  I need to be doing a better job of sales and marketing…

The story continues…

The Two Mode hybrid control system was done entirely in model-based design,” Helfrich said.

“That really enabled engineers to do what they needed to do to ensure that the system actually worked, prior to even having hardware available,” he said.

“GM is reducing costs and taking weeks out of the development time of control systems for hybrid powertrains, he said. The automaker also is shortening its cycle time on design changes without affecting quality,” he said.

“We can now do those iterations virtually, and then commit ourselves to hardware later in the design center,” Helfrich said. “It saved us a lot of money in terms of eliminated prototypes and rework.”

This is just perfect, it’s almost exactly what we say when we’re introducing someone to the benefits of RAMS.  Stories like this are positive for our whole industry and give me great hope that Model Based Systems Engineering will revolutionize the design of complex mission-critical systems.


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