The top trends of digitization, electrification, autonomous driving and connectivity are decisively shaping the E/E architectures in tomorrow's automobiles. The domain-oriented E/E architectures that still predominate lead to functional interdependencies that are almost impossible to manage. According to Dipl.-Ing. Kai Lars Barbehön (Vice President Central Control Units, Wire Harness, Power Supply of the BMW Group, Munich), one of the keynote speakers at the International VDI Congress ELIV 2023, the solutions for a holistic E/E architecture approach are obvious: The high integration of former domain computers in powerful integration platforms is just as much a part of this as zonal wiring system architectures.
For years, manufacturers and suppliers have been in agreement on the expectation that the trend toward high integration in so-called "high-performance computing" platforms will continue. As a result, the number of control units with complex overarching chains of action will be drastically reduced, Barbehön continues: "In the same breath, however, increasing digitalization is forcing us to open up solutions for decentralized electrification. Zonality is the magic word here."
New Paths in Development
In addition to a modern, service-oriented software architecture, the expert believes that stringent development processes and a consistent tool world are among the decisive criteria for the success of future concepts: "In terms of system engineering, we have to break away from conventional waterfall development in high-integration projects and be able to provide integration and testing services in every incremental development step," explains Barbehön. The development process of integrating individual control units in the complete vehicle for the first time in order to debug the entire system via system buses reaches its limits with high integration.
Digitization of the Energy Supply
However, a zonal communications architecture alone is not enough: Zoning must likewise be extended to the energy supply system, otherwise it will not be possible to separate the wiring harness. It is obvious that the opportunities offered by digitization should also be exploited in the field of energy supply. Barbehön emphasizes, "Intelligent wiring systems with switchable cables via eFUSES that meet the demand for highly efficient energy management and secure energy supply lead into the future."
In the context of electrification, efficiency is on the one hand a core prerequisite for increased ranges and on the other hand contributes to meeting the demand for sustainable mobility. Increased safety levels, in turn, are the prerequisite for automated driving and future by-wire systems: "Already taken into account at the beginning of the E/E architecture design, both requirements can be implemented smartly in the truest sense of the word with innovative technologies such as an intelligent onboard energy network with eFUSES," continues Kai Lars Barbehön.
New Distribution of Tasks and New Partnerships
For OEMs, the ability to keep their vehicle portfolio "up to date" even after delivery is becoming critical to success. End-to-end maintainability with the option of backward compatibility requires stable architectures, especially stable software platforms. To ensure this, the current value creation models between OEMs and suppliers are likely to change, according to Barbehön: "OEMs are penetrating deeper into the domains of today's suppliers, particularly in the case of high-performance computing platforms. The degree of in-house software development is growing. This is also changing the role of suppliers; partnerships with EMS providers (contract manufacturers) are expanding the previous portfolio of classic first tiers."