Safety first: How safety ECUs can be tested at an early stage

May 06, 2015 // By Marc Greger, IPG Automotive
Manufacturers of safety-critical electronic control units (ECUs) are confronted with increasingly complex questions due to the rapid proliferation of sophisticated technology installed in vehicles, as well as consistently growing demands and legal requirements to be met by safety ECUs.

The requirements of ISO 26262 (“Road Vehicles - Functional Safety”), which primarily apply to safety-relevant electronic systems in motor vehicles, are relevant in this context. Other important requirements are those established by the Euro NCAP organization, as their evaluation plays a major role in the consumers’ acceptance of vehicles.

On the technological side, solutions for increasingly challenging performance requirements have to be found as well. This requires highly complex sensors and the sharing of information from these sensors across various ECUs.

The following look at vehicle safety shows the importance of this topic and illustrates that this major development trend will continue in the future. 

Requirements for safety ECUs

The number and complexity of test cases are without doubt increasing in the field of vehicle safety as well. By means of various crash sensors installed in different places of the vehicle (see schematic depiction in Figure X) airbag control units have to decide if, when, and if so, which of the airbags should be ignited for deployment.

Another typical question that arises in this context is the optimization of the ignition timing for airbag inflators. Decisions derived on the basis of sensor information and the determination of the optimum safety response can have far-reaching consequences and may make the difference between life and death.

Interaction of safety systems and advanced driver assistance systems

To satisfy relevant safety requirements, a large number of ECUs and sensors that analyze the environment are installed in modern vehicles, a trend that will continue to grow. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are used to recognize dangerous situations early in order to avoid accidents. Passive safety systems such as belt tensioners and airbags serve to mitigate the consequences of accidents. In contrast to passive systems, active safety systems such as the emergency brake assist intervene with the vehicle’s operation at an early stage in order to avoid a collision. 

Advanced driver assistance systems obtain their environmental

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