June 29, 2009
Autosar and VSA from Mentor Graphics
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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Mentor Graphics’ products and roadmap cover architecture design, network design and ECU configuration design, Autosar conformance testing, and virtual integration and simulation; holistic. The VSA tool set will have all of these different aspects of Autosar. Our goals overlap completely with Autosar: enable optimization of different electronic architectures, early virtual verification; move as much verification into the front end of the development process as possible. This ensures correctness by design. We want to have a continuous flow from requirements to realization. That is it in a nutshell.

Is the degree of support and participation in Autosar the same across the three major geographies?
Europe supports and drives Autosar. Japan is more cautious and has created its own Autosar overlays (Jaspar). But I think Japan sees it as imperative. They view it as very complicated. America – all the major players participate but in their case Autosar competes with their mature in-house practices. In China they are trying to catch up to the current technology, so they are not really thinking about Autosar yet. Korea is teetering between the two worlds right now. They are doing a lot of deign on current technology but they are starting up some pilots on Autosar now.

Editor: Autosar has a three tiered membership structure, namely core, premium and associate members. Core Autosar Partners are BMW Group, Bosch, Continental, Daimler, Ford, Opel, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Toyota and Volkswagen. Premium Partners include ARM, Delphi, Fiat, Freescale, Fujitsu, Honda, Hyundai, IBM, Infineon, Mazda, Mentor Graphics, NEC, Porsche, and Volvo.

In Japan there is JasPar (Japan Automotive Software Platform and Architecture), whose goal is to reduce technology development costs and promote technology development by encouraging Japanese companies to collaboratively develop pre-competitive technologies such as automotive LAN enabling technology, middleware and software platform.

The US firms have a lot of internally developed alternatives.
The US companies like Ford and GM have historically been so huge that the problems now being addressed by Autosar had to be solved by somebody and somewhere at GM. So GM has created proprietary, GM specific solutions that do similar things to Autosar although by the nature of being GM proprietary they miss a number of Autosar objectives. I think that the current near death of American car companies has caused them to take a hard look at different practices. We are certainly seeing that being the case. For one of them, a particular company - I can not name - approaching bankruptcy, their conversions with us did not diminish, in fact it intensified.

Are the customers for Mentor’s products the car manufacturers themselves or the tier one and two suppliers?
Historically, companies like Mentor have served only the Tier 2 suppliers or the semiconductor players in this space. We are targeting both the car companies and Tier 1 suppliers. The general process we follow is that we are trying to score a design win in a car company and once we have succeeded, their supply chain comes along.

In a car there are multiple electronic systems for entertainment, comfort, safety etc. Are the users of VSA operating in separate groups or as a single group with a more holistic view?
Typically, now it is around domains. We are engaged with an OEM on a new car project around a domain say comfort and safety. So that will be the scope. Someone else may be dong the powertrain. Car companies are organized very flatly internally. They are organized around functions. There is a climate control group that does climate control for every model in a particular car company. Then there are vertical orientated projects like the BMW Series 7 project that would have representatives setting in on project meeting in the areas of climate control and powertrain. Basically, it is all about functions. Functions you might consider to be simple actually turn out to be quite complex. Even figuring out how to correctly architect something modest in scope as climate control requires advanced tools. But what we are not seeing right now is car companies having some kind of master architecture development that oversees all the functions in a car. There are some companies trying to do that but it is contrary to the way they are organized.

Take the climate control group as an example. How many users of VSA would there be in that group?
For a project of this scope, I would anticipate maybe a dozen at a particular OEM and maybe twice as many at the supplier.

All of those people would have a seat of VSA?
Yes. This is what they would need. If they are trying to manage their expense, they could probably share the software as they do with other things.

How is the product packaged?
If you buy VSA, it has all the pieces; things that do the mapping, the architecture, .. The only things broken out are the different communication design tools. So there is a plug for CAN, one for LIN and one for Flexray because they are pretty algorithmically intensive pieces. You can get VSA node locked or on a server. This just follows the Mentor standard. There is nothing special here.

As we role out other tools, there will be three main tools in the system; the Architect tool, integration tools and testing for compliance of the basic software. I do not know how they are going to be licensed. We have sold them in the past but it depends on where the market is. Some of these modules are moving to commodity

Other than internally developed tools at some of the larger car manufactures, who is the principal competition?
The gorilla in the market is Vector, a German company. They are a competitor in the sense that they are trying to solve the same problem. But they are trying to solve the problem in a rather traditional way. The bulk of their business is in test tracks and services. That’s the traditional way of doing this. As design tools are concerned there are very small companies offering partial solutions. As far as embedded software is concerned there again there are several players around the world. But basically, the process has been to find a bunch of pieces, hire consultants to glue them together and do that again for every model. It is the historical approach to this and people who have operated successfully in this market until recently adapted to that style of work that is they constructed their organization based on services. We are trying to change that. Our interest is delivering services is rather minimal. We are trying to teach people to fish rather than sell them fish.

Editor: Vector Infromatik GmbH had revenues of 127 million euros in 2007

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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.

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