Holistic Systems Engineering Best Approach for Automotive

BMW dashboard

In the March edition of Automotive Engineering International, Bruce Morey addresses how advancing CAD, CAM and PLM technologies are changing the way engineers develop, simulate, and analyse car designs.

And it’s not only product development tools that are becoming evermore sophisticated and widely used. Cars themselves are more advanced, incorporating a vast array of software and computers.

Today, Morey argues, autos are far more than metal and plastic. Software has become an integral part of all vehicle systems and must be incorporated into product design as early as possible.

Morey interviews Andrew Wertkin, Chief Technology Officer at PTC:

“Software is now safety critical,” says Wertkin. “As vehicles are now driven by software, with everything from electronic braking systems, active cruise control, or steering aids, failures can result in harm to the operator.” Safety standards such as ISO 26262 need to be incorporated into product development, Wertkin says.

Integrating hardware, software and systems through model-based systems engineering is key, argues Wertkin. And although the V-Model approach is widely accepted, it has its inadequacies:

“The V-Model is nice to explain a systems-engineering process, but it does not really do it justice,” says Wertkin. This is because the V-Model is linear, where as in reality, engineering teams tend to develop products in a non-linear way, with multiple “Vs” at the system, subsystem, and component levels. As well, there are separately developed technology roadmaps.

The V-Model also falls short when coordinating change and release across multiple disciplines and the supply chain, Wertkin argues.

So what’s to the right answer? In Wertkin’s opinion, it’s a holistic systems-engineering approach, with a network of information across disciplines, function, and phases of the project managed centrally. Using a general purpose modeling language for systems engineering, such as the SysML standard, delivers this central vision into the functions of the vehicle, Wertkin says.

It also provides a way to capture requirements while validating system feasibility. It’s an ideal way to begin with a simple model and build detail as development progresses.

Automotive OEMs are starting to deliver sophisticated MATLAB or Simulink models as a way of describing system requirements, while others still supply written requirements as words, Wertkin says. “Supplier maturity, their ability to accept a model for requirements, is also uneven,” he says. However, artifacts from the systems modeling and simulation applications are a critical part of the development process and must be under change management, available for impact analysis, traceability, reuse, and concurrent engineering, Wertkin concludes.

Read Bruce Morey’s full article “Early Simulation Enhances Product Development.

Related Reading:

About Nancy Pardo

Nancy Pardo is a Seattle-based writer and editor. She holds an MA in Professional Writing. She began her career as a Washington DC-area reporter, moving on to become an editor and contributor for several top industry magazines in the U.S. and the Middle East. Nancy currently works for PTC as content marketing director and manages the company's award-winning blog Product Lifecycle Stories.
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