Research project significantly improves electronics reliability

October 29, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The RESCAR 2.0 research project helps to improve reliability and resilience of electronic systems in vehicles, in particular in electric ones. The project, led by chipmaker Infineon and concluded recently, also helps car manufacturers to align increasingly fast design cycles with rising complexity of the electronics landscape in vehicles.

In powertrain, electronic control units (ECUs) or in the car's body and comfort electronics, the number of the electronic components is rising as well as their complexity. Today's medium sized cars have about 70 ECUs; experts believe that in five years from now this number will be about 100 units. These networked computers, comprising some 4000 to 8000 integrated circuits, have to collaborate without any errors under all driving circumstances.

Electrically-driven cars demand particularly resistant, reliable and durable ECUs. In addition to driving operations, the electronic components and chips installed in them are also under stress during downtimes ; for example, in the battery management when quick-charging or charging overnight. Here, the electronic systems must be designed to last more than 30,000 operating hours - almost four times longer than today's average of about 8,000 operating hours in vehicles with conventional combustion engines. Hitherto, ECUs of electric cars have been improved through elaborate specific manual work to master these challenges.

The task for RESCAR 2.0 was to devise methods and procedures for development processes to be used across the entire automotive value chain that take into account the increasing vehicle complexity as well as the tougher reliability requirements. Hitherto, the standard practice was to optimise existing solutions which had been developed separately and without much coordination. The result of the RESCAR research is a cross-industry solution that enables upgrading of the ECUs in a considerably more efficient way.

The five research partners involved in the project - carmaker Audi, electronics supplier Bosch, the FZI research centre and chipmakers Elmos and Infineon - developed processes and methods that are standardized across the automotive value chain from the semiconductor provider to the system supplier and the automobile manufacturer. These processes can be applied by all participants already in very early stages of their development activities. For example, special robustness analyses have been devised. They help to check and confirm the suitability of