Virtual Prototyping for Renesas RH850-based Automotive Systems
Using the advanced simulation capabilities of virtualization to investigate problems in software being developed for automotive applications and then efficiently implement optimal solutions
In the automotive industry, millions of lines of code must be written, tested and thoroughly debugged to ensure that new vehicles meet performance requirements and buyer expectations. Due to tight production schedules, complex software must be developed before the actual hardware becomes available. Synopsys, a Renesas technology partner and a global leader in EDA tools and semiconductor IP, helps system engineers overcome this challenge.
Customers applying RH850 microcontrollers (MCUs) can use powerful new Synopsys tools to increase their software development productivity. In this interview, Mr. Marc Serughetti, Director of Product Marketing at Synopsys, describes how automotive system engineers can start code development early and shorten the time it takes to deliver high-quality embedded-system software.
Meeting the challenge of developing massive amounts of high-quality embedded software
EDGE: Welcome to the Renesas EDGE, Mr. Serughetti. Because Synopsys is a global company -the leader in Electronic Design Automation with revenues of $1.76 billion in 2012-what do you feel are the most important trends and issues today for designers of embedded systems?
Mr. Serughetti: Thank you for inviting me and for asking such an interesting question. The answer depends to some extent on the market segment, and I feel that it’s best to focus here on the automotive industry. Needless to say, both of our corporations have extensive involvement and experience in this field. Renesas is a preeminent supplier to automotive electronics firms, and Synopsys serves 80% of the top 15 automotive OEMs and 60% of the top 15 Tier-1 subsystem manufacturers. We are a financially stable, reliable company with a long-term vision for meeting the needs of customers developing diverse types of electronics products.
In our view, software is now the greatest engineering challenge facing the global automotive industry today. In fact, software is a bigger and more important issue than even problems related to familiar mechanical parts such as engines, transmissions, body structures and suspensions. That’s because a typical new vehicle contains between 50 and 100 microcontroller-based electronic controller units. These ECUs run from 10 to 100 million lines of embedded software code per vehicle-a staggeringly large amount.
Significantly, the importance of this software grows with every new generation of cars and trucks. Software routines control safety, emissions, convenience, navigation entertainment and connectivity features, among others. Superior performance in any of these areas gives OEMs advantages that help boost vehicle sales, while deficiencies can hurt sales.
As a result, the automotive industry expends great effort on developing reliable application code. At tier-1 suppliers, for example, software development utilizes up to 50% of R&D resources and determines nearly all product release schedules.
Moreover, in some cases it’s possible that the late completion of new software can delay the introduction of an automotive manufacturer’s new car or truck. If that happens, the result can be disastrous because market competition is ferocious and a well-designed ‘new’ vehicle can gain a huge sales advantage.
EDGE: The features of the RH850, V850 and SH-2A/SH-4A MCUs produced by Renesas are critical to application performance, of course, but so is the code our chips run. It’s the combination of the hardware and software that determines the success of a system design. Knowing this, and seeing the enormous investment our customers make on software development, we provide excellent support services for our chips, while also encouraging third-party specialists to do likewise. That’s why Renesas is very pleased to have Synopsys as a technology partner.
In your expert view, are the existing software development tools adequate for the software development tasks automotive system engineers must complete on schedule?
Mr. Serughetti: Much of the application code is so complex that it must be created, tested and debugged in parallel with the development of the hardware that will execute it in the vehicle. That is, software development must start early, before the hardware on which it will run becomes available (see Figure 1).
As a result, after new code is written, automotive engineers often use an RTL (Resistor-transfer level) simulator to check it. To be sure, RTL simulation is very useful for the design of LSI ICs, but it’s too slow to be very useful for system design.
Alternatively, engineers can apply MATLAB/Simulink tools for code verification. However, these simulation tools lack a capability essential for embedded system design. They cannot access and incorporate data on the specific hardware on which the control and application software will run.
Clearly, better alternatives are needed to help automotive system designers meet critical tight deadlines for massive software applications.
Offering fast, fully functional models of embedded-system hardware that can run unmodified production code
EDGE: What does the automotive industry need to make the process of developing vehicle software less time consuming and more efficient?
Mr. Serughetti: Synopsys has many tools to do this. The most powerful is virtual prototyping, which applies a different level of abstraction and uses TLM (Transaction-Level Modeling). This is the key technology behind our virtual prototypes. These fast, fully functional software models of systems are robust mathematical constructs that execute unmodified production vehicle application code. They can be used for multiple software development activities, including fault testing (see Figure 2).
|Virtual Prototype-based Software Development Solution|
|Fault injection points||Anywhere||Provides full access to modeled internal and external hardware elements AND software. Allows modifications to the state of the complete system.|
|Permanent faults||Yes||Enables modeling of a permanent fault through full control of the simulation.|
|Experiment Intrusiveness||None||Keeps faults inside the simulation framework. Makes sure faults do not go into release code.|
|Observability||High||Records and correlates all hardware and software events.|
|Controllability||High||Can be triggered by software, hardware or time events.|
|Repeatability||High||Uses deterministic simulation.|
|Speed||1/10th real time||Quickly runs complete software stacks.|
With our virtual prototyping products, system engineers obtain the advantages of a full system simulation. Virtual prototypes can execute unmodified production code and they provide more controllability and greater visibility into program execution. Software developers can use virtual prototypes to start writing their code long before the ECU hardware is available.
EDGE: Synopsys has a lengthy history of collaboration with Renesas, having previously worked with us on models for our SH-2A and V850 MCUs. Please update us about your latest activities in this regard.
Mr. Serughetti: Synopsys and Renesas are now working to jointly develop and deploy advanced software development solutions optimized for designs based on Renesas MCUs. We are emphasizing the recently announced RH850 family, which is built with your 40nm MONOS flash process and delivers lower power, higher connectivity and better security.
Synopsys recognizes that the MCUs in the RH850 family offer the high scalability, performance and reliability essential for automotive systems. Our enthusiasm for these new devices was bolstered in February, when the editors of Design News magazine selected the RH850/F1x MCU as the 2013 Automotive Electronics category winner of their prestigious “Golden Mousetrap Awards”, citing the chip’s built-in intelligent cryptographic unit, among other features.
Producing Virtualized Development Kits, system-level simulation models, and more
Mr. Serughetti: The latest Renesas-Synopsys collaboration includes the establishment of a Virtual MCU Center of Excellence for producing products that will accelerate software development and system testing for Renesas RH850-based designs. Within this organization, a dedicated team of engineers from both companies is developing and soon will offer system-level models and Virtualized Development Kits (VDKs), among other products.
VDKs are fast, non-intrusive, deterministic and scriptable. They provide good visibility into code execution and boost the efficiency of the critical processes of debugging and analysis.
More specifically, the experts manning the Center will create verified core and peripheral models and assemble them into virtual representations of various RH850 microcontrollers. Additionally, Synopsys will provide a set of software tools and integrate them with other automotive development tools such as AUTOSAR so that the VDKs can be readily integrated into system development processes used by OEMs and Tier-1 automotive firms.
EDGE: Will you please describe the output of the Virtual MCU Center of Excellence in more detail?
Mr. Serughetti: The Synopsys and Renesas experts of the Center of Excellence are developing RH850-based MCU virtual prototypes. This is a very exacting, meticulous design and verification process. To ensure the success of this project, staff members from both companies share their in-depth insights on simulation model construction and microcontroller design and application technology.
Additionally, we are making progress toward the completion of a reference virtual prototype that will give automotive ECU designers very early access to the features of the RH850 chip.
The VDKs being developed at the Center use a virtual prototype as a target processor. They provide full visibility and controllability of embedded systems. When automotive engineers combine these VDKs with popular code debuggers, they will not only speed up their software development, but also improve their system integration and test activities.
VDKs provide better debugging and analysis capabilities than other software development tools. Figure 4 shows the multiple ways that OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers can apply them to the different stages of building a next-generation car or truck.
Already, many models for RH850 on-chip peripheral functions have been created, and we expect to release our first VDK within a month or two. This sophisticated tool contains a comprehensive package of components; it’s much more than just a virtual MCU model (see Figure 5).
In the future, the Center of Excellence plans to meet market needs by creating new models in response to requests from automotive OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers. Another aim is to create software tools for use in more complex ECUs that network together multiple MCUs.
Making a commitment to excellence that justifiably builds confidence in simulation accuracy
Mr. Serughetti: I must emphasize the exceptional quality of the simulations the Center produces. The joint engineering staff can access the RH850’s information in the early phase-a big advantage at validation. That makes us certain that our virtualization models accurately duplicate the functions of the actual chip hardware. Knowing this, automotive system engineers can have full confidence in the results from these simulations.
Also, Synopsys and Renesas have put in place a long-term formalized commitment to excellence that guarantees the availability, optimization and support of the Center’s simulation models.
EDGE: Who will distribute and support the VDKs?
Mr. Serughetti: Synopsys will distribute and support VDKs for reference designs for powertrain, chassis and body functions, and more. To address customer-specific model and integration requirements, we provide services expertise worldwide. Further, we welcome opportunities to discuss custom requirements with customers.
EDGE: Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss advanced software tools with EDGE, Mr. Serughetti. System engineers in the global automotive industry will benefit greatly from the powerful and accurate simulation models produced by collaborative development program you have described.
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