« Back Cyber-Physical Approach in the Automotive Industry: Stepping into the Future of Model-Based Development

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The world is becoming increasingly digitally connected. Take a minute to think about how many electronic communications are happening around you every day. Did you ask your smart speaker to read you the news this morning? Did you board public transport via a contactless payment? Or check to see how far away your taxi was? Scan a QR code? All of these transactions require a series of different digital systems to work alongside each other seamlessly and as such, software and hardware across varying infrastructures, companies and systems have to be tested together to ensure they work before entering the market.

Model-based development (MBD), a method of testing complicated interactions among software as a simulated system using virtual recreations of mechanics, has become an increasingly popular and productive development technique within the manufacturing sector. It offers a host of benefits over alternative methods, including increased productivity and quality.

Nowhere has this been more evident than within the automotive industry, where through MBDs process of simulating interactions among vehicular components against external models which emulate various traffic conditions it has helped manufacturers to accelerate the development process of individual components and finished vehicles and prevent costly reworks.

The recent emergence of CASE technologies however, (i.e. the development of Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric vehicles) has come to the forefront of automotive development. These advances vastly increase the efficiency, reliability and safety of vehicles and vehicle manufacturing but in doing so, drive up the number and complexity of disparate software and hardware systems many times over.

This is where MBD hits a stumbling block. While effective in testing the efficiency of individual components, it struggles to keep pace with the interconnectivity of todays cars following the arrival of numerous different types of electronic components and systems within the CASE fields all of which need to be able to work together. Within such a fast-paced and highly competitive sector, it is essential that manufacturers are able to test the viability of these technologies against one another early on in the process firstly to ensure they will work together seamlessly within the final car, and secondly to avoid any expensive reworks should they be required, by catching them early.

A cyber-physical era of model-based development

Toshiba has been able to overcome this challenge by applying a cyber-physical approach to model-based development. This eliminates a number of existing challenges which currently exist with MBD. For example, when attempting to simulate an entire vehicle, all models of various components and systems which are manufactured by different companies must be gathered in one place. Yet as these models tend to contain sensitive date such as design information, companies are reluctant to expose them, instead preferring to purchase their own simulation tools which has led to the creation of a fragmented and difficult to connect landscape. On top of this, simulations which combine a large number of models are too heavy to run on a single PC, further complicating the process.

Toshibas Distributed Co-Simulation Platform, with its cyber-physical approach, has the potential to revolutionise what can be achieved, and subsequently simplify these challenges facing automotive companies today. But what does a cyber-physical approach entail? In principle, cyber-physical systems (CPS) are defined as those which collect real-world data and analyse it within cyber or digital environments using technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) before then applying the learnings back within the physical world to create added value. Toshiba is applying this methodology today across the manufacturing sector and beyond, using its extensive knowledge and expertise across a broad range of business and technology fields and acquired over many decades to help organisations build transformative, more sustainable solutions in a more effective way.

Schematic of the Distributed Co-Simulation Platform

By deploying a CPS approach to MBD, Toshibas platform has essentially evolved this technique to a new level of large-scale simulations which connect multiple models owned by different automakers and parts suppliers within a single digital testing environment.

 Video of simulation at two sites

The solution allows automakers to build a fully virtual prototype of the car, enabling them to perform the necessary verifications of todays complex automotive control systems much earlier in the process and in turn, significantly improve quality and productivity. Connections between different suppliers can be automated to reduce man-hours, while simulations can be executed via the cloud to reduce latency and considerably accelerate the wider verification process.

Central to the success of the Distributed Co-Simulation Platform is Toshibas central involvement in wider efforts to standardise the future of MBD within the automotive industry. In Europe, Toshiba is a member of the German private vendor-neutral organisation prostep ivip Association, which defines standards for mechanisms and processes for the distribution and co-simulation of models between multiple companies. Similarly in Japan, Toshiba is working with the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to deliver a more co-operative approach. In actively participating in such projects, Toshiba aims to develop and establish a standard platform for automakers and parts suppliers to work together on digital prototypes for automotive control systems subsequently quickening the mainstream arrival of CASE vehicles and the significant benefits they can bring to society from an environmental and sustainability perspective.

At the same time, this collaborative approach plays an important role in eradicating concerns automakers may have about exposing their intellectual property within such platforms. The Distributed Co-Simulation Platform is able to bring different companies together for joint verification while simultaneously maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive information such as design data for all participants.

The collaborative nature of cyber-physical systems created by Toshiba will continue to become increasingly important within the automotive and wider manufacturing sectors, and not just for the cost and productivity efficiencies they bring. Within the current landscape, as global societal and business environments change, organisations will become ever more reliant on knowledge and information sharing to advance technological solutions and create a more sustainable society. A joint approach to techniques such as model-based development may be a first step, but as the physical and digital worlds continue to converge, we will undoubtedly see the emergence of more cyber-physical systems which transform the way in which we work and live across multiple domains.

2021