"Sorry officer, but I blame a glitch in my cruise control software"

08-07-2015 |   |  By Paul Whytock

Today's high-end cars contain more lines of software code than modern jet fighters with luxury models running up to a 100 million lines of code compared to a mere 6 million in jumbo-sized passenger aircraft. What's more the amount of in-car software can only increase because nearly 80% of automotive innovation and new systems rely on electronics technology.

It's not surprising Analysts Frost & Sullivan estimate cars will require 200 to 300 million lines of software code in the near future. So you may think you are in charge of your car but brakes, in-car entertainment and information, climate and cruise control and many many other functions are being managed by millions of lines of software code.

This undoubtedly offers enormous scope for automotive innovation but software does increase design complexity and exacerbates time-to-market delays.

To address these challenges, Freescale Semiconductor has developed the S32K which it claims is the first automotive microcontroller (MCU) product line dedicated to simplifying and accelerating software development. It's based on ARM Cortex architecture which delivers good scalability and compatibility for a range of automotive electronics applications.

In a bid too expedite software development technology beyond the traditional Autosar Microcontroller Abstraction Layer, Freescale has created an automotive-grade software development kit that provides middleware for a set of drivers necessary to operate S32K MCUs. The company has also developed an open integration environment for developers focusing S32K MCUs, the S32 Design Studio, that the company says is engineered to cut development times.

Freescale has a collaborative relationship with software tool specialists IAR Systems whereby IAR provides a set of software tools for developing safety applications, including a C/C++ compiler and debugger tool chain. With the combination of Freescale’s existing Cortex-M0+-based KEA MCU family and the new, more powerful Cortex-M4-based S32K product line, the company believes it is supplying an extremely scalable ARM Cortex-based portfolio for automotive applications ranging from body and chassis control to touch-sensing interfaces, to communication gateways and applications requiring electrical motor control features.

Sharing the same ARM Cortex architecture, customer software written for these product lines is compatible across numerous MCUs and automotive applications, allowing customers to dramatically extend the value of automotive software investments via code reuse. The combined Cortex M0+ and M4-based automotive MCU offerings span a broad memory space and include package options from 8K to 2MByte with 16 to 176pins.

But there is more to automotive software systems than developing code. What about all the different car industry standards that exist now and those emerging in the near future?

Freescale says its S32K MCUs are designed to help simplify and speed ISO26262 assessments by applying a SafeAssure functional safety program throughout the product portfolio.

The increasingly interconnected nature of a vehicle’s control modules means system security is an essential attribute. Consequently, to support broad vehicle-level functional safety and security, S32K MCUs incorporate a Secure Hardware Extension compliant module to help secure communications and protect the integrity of subsystems.

The S32K supports CAN Flexible Data rate as well as the new FlexIO configurable peripheral, allowing customers to implement future communication protocols not yet invented, as well as to expand channels to existing on-chip hardware protocol controllers.


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By Paul Whytock

Paul Whytock is European Editor for Electropages. He has reported extensively on the electronics industry in Europe, the United States and the Far East for over twenty years. Prior to entering journalism he worked as a design engineer with Ford Motor Company at locations in England, Germany, Holland and Belgium.

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