In-vehicle connectivity is top priority for the auto sector these days, given the growing role it plays in safety, navigation and infotainment systems. The development times for such technologies are also reducing due to new software solutions that help speed up development. Vector Informatik is a company that provides CAN-based tools and solutions for the development of automotive connectivity systems. We met with Brahmanand Patil, Managing Director, Vector Informatik India, who shared some interesting details of the company's solutions with which it simplifies engineering tasks for the auto sector.
Brahmanand Patil joined Vector Informatik India Pvt Ltd in 2014, as Managing Director. He was given the task of leading the Indian subsidiary's drive towards consolidating its position as the preferred partner for the development of embedded electronics for OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers in the automotive industry. Patil is an electronics and communication engineer, and an advanced management graduate in product leadership and business management, with over 18 years of experience in automotive electronics.
Earlier, he had worked with Bosch for more than a decade, where he held several leadership positions across the Bosch Group. Brahmanand is passionate about technology, automotive systems, platforms and energy efficiency. He also serves as a key member of Product Leaders Forum (PLF), which is a not-for-profit initiative, with an intent to build an active forum of product leaders helping build stronger product mindsets and skillsets in India.
ATR _ What is the main objective of Vector Informatik's solutions?
BRAHMANAND PATIL _ Vector Informatik develops tools, solutions and services that are useful for engineers, who are in the line of automotive electronics development, and helps simplify their processes. Our products are used by engineers of automotive OEMs, Tier I suppliers, and other software organisations undertaking the development of automotive electronics. There is increased complexity in the automotive space, especially with the software running in cars, for which development teams need to have an overview of their ideas being realised into technologies. There is a lot of tool chain and structure development, not to mention the standards that are being adopted. Vector is also part of several standardisation groups, providing solutions in the areas of system engineering, design, testing, validation and calibration.
Vector also offers solutions to engineers in application areas such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous driving, connected vehicles and electric vehicles. The company puts together solutions and provides customers with tool chains to develop, test, calibrate and validate software that is being developed for such applications.
Does Vector Informatik carry out localised development work in India?
No, all the company's products are developed and engineered at the headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The subsidiaries, including India, work as a front end to the market, and helps engineers choose the right combination of products to help with their development work. This is essential, since technical understanding of the domain is required, in addition to choosing the correct combination of products. The local teams also take back information on local market requirements and work with product teams in building or sustaining products suitable for the local market. There are services like coaching, training offered by Vector India. Additionally, Vector India has a pool of engineers who develop test solutions using HiL system like the VT-System and leverage Vector's expertise in building these test automation systems for Indian customers.
What are the current trends in the automotive industry, for which Vector Informatik is developing solutions?
Vector follows automotive trends closely, with the principle being that it does not develop solutions in isolation, but rather works with customers as partners. This helps us come up with ideas, where we can try out new ways of implementing solutions rather than developing specific solutions for a particular product or application. A main area of focus is connected vehicles, where Vector is looking at extending the domain beyond the car, at the areas where it can offer standardisation. There is a large amount of data collected from the car when talking about connectivity and the company is looking at cloud solutions in managing this data.
Another topic of concern is that of cyber security, where OEMs are analysing if there is enough security of information inside the automobile. Vector has developed solutions related to remote updating of software, for which its understanding of the vehicle network is helping us to see how this can be connected with the IT world.
Autonomous Driving is another trend towards which Vector is carrying out development work, in partnership with BASELABS, which is a university start-up based in Germany. They are developing algorithms related to ADAS for autonomous driving, and Vector's calibration product line is aligned to them, so that the entire package supports both, the development and validation of ADAS. Our tool set for testing and calibration has been developed to accommodate future vehicle technologies, and also extend it to multiple networks in a vehicle.
The company is working on electric mobility, by offering standard solutions for charging in terms of embedded software. Apart from developing innovations based on market trends, Vector is also working on identifying the challenges that a customer could face in the future in the context of these trends. There is an increasing level of integration of hardware, software and computing in cars, and OEMs are facing the challenge of knowing where each function needs to be placed. We are creating a solution to help OEMs gain good control over this data, and tracing the various technologies that go into a carmaker's different models and variants.
Could you tell us about the steps being taken to introduce standards within software and embedded systems in the Indian market?
We see that AUTOSAR is a standard that is widely adopted across the globe, while the market in India is evaluating whether it should change to AUTOSAR completely or follow a step-wise approach. What we learn from our customers is that there is no pressing need to switch to AUTOSAR standards for embedded software in vehicle electronics at the moment, since they want to keep it open for various types of vehicles. Defining of standards at this stage could also restrict development of new solutions, especially in the case of two-wheeler electronics, in the Indian context.
However, for the development of Ethernet solutions, AUTOSAR needs to be employed as the Ethernet specification is only in AUTOSAR. A few Indian OEMs are working on a roadmap for the adoption of standards, which will also flow into the two-wheeler segment. Vector is strong in AUTOSAR and several OEMs globally use MICROSAR, which is the Vector AUTOSAR stack. Many Indian customers have MICROSAR stack running in their cars as the Tier I have used Vector AUTOSAR solutions.
With electronic safety systems being more commonplace, how do your solutions benefit companies in this context?
Automotive companies adhere to defined safety classes, called ASIL (Automotive Safety Integrity Level), which comply to ISO 26262 safety standards. Most of our tool chains support the development of systems in compliance with ISO 26262, and our tools define the software standard for process development. PREEvision is a tool that helps customers assess the overall architecture of their product, if it is designed for certain safety standards that they expect. Additionally, we cannot undermine the amount of testing and validation that is required for the development of these safety technologies. Vector offers standardisation of testing and simulation of vehicle or output conditions, and simplifies the entire simulation process for test engineers.
What are Vector's customers' main areas of interest, in the Indian context?
We have seen that customers in India are focusing on testing, from software and unit testing to lab testing, simulation test beds and finally on-road fleet tests. The infrastructure required for testing is quite unique for each application within the vehicle, unlike industrial automation, where a standard set-up can be offered for all applications. Therefore, making the test set-up right for the appropriate application is very important, which needs a test system that is open, customisable, scalable, and usable along with a desktop or with hardware-in-loop rack systems. The tool needs to have varied usage, with testing of various parameters in the lab or in real-world conditions. Our knowledge of different standards helps in providing tools with various application testing possibilities. The test services team at Vector India builds these HiL systems using the best suitable configuration of VT-system and test automation in CANoe tool.
Does Vector play a role in offering solutions to the automotive industry, in line with upcoming regulations of the adoption of BS VI standards in 2020?
The requirement that BS VI emission norms bring to the automotive sector is the need to build engines that meet prescribed emission standards. There are OEMs, both multi-national and Indian, which have such compliant products that have been launched in Europe, but there is probably a need for additional engineering effort to make these engines right for India. For this, a host of Vector's products would go into supporting customers to identify the correct software algorithms that need to be deployed. While a customer develops a system approach, for example, to reduce NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) to meet emission goals, they can use the automotive standard ECU like VC121 and basic software like Vector MICROSAR or CANbedded to develop and validate the NOx algorithms. The NOx algorithm models can be developed on this ECU, quickly run and test it, leading to rapid prototyping. Beyond this, in terms of emission standards in India, customers would need tool chains to diagnose engines and manage the powertrain ECUs for emissions.
The company's CANape calibration tool is also used by two-wheeler OEMs in India for development in the areas of powertrain. This tool comes with ASAM (Association for Standardisation of Automation and Measuring Systems) standards, which two-wheeler manufacturers use for validation of many other systems.
What are the other areas of innovation the company is investing in?
Most of the work currently is going on in the development of new connectivity-related technologies, as well as in cloud solutions. A lot of the research in Europe is being undertaken on identifying the appropriate connectivity technologies for vehicle networks. Vector Informatik is also looking at setting up a new office in Bangalore, which will have about a dozen engineers, who will focus on supporting local customers. They will help local customers in areas like implementing autonomous vehicle algorithms, developing hardware-in-loop systems, or embedded software.
TEXT & PHOTO: Naveen Arul