ECUs with room to grow

Selecting an ECU (electronic control unit) for your project is an investment in time and financial resources. Once the selection has been made for a given product line, that ECU will be used on average for 5 years. This means that even if the ECU meets all of your needs now it may not in 3 years if you don’t plan ahead.

Types of growth

There are three types of growth that need to be accounted for:

  1. Increases in functions: as new features are added new functions are added. These functions will take up additional processing time.
  2. Increases in memory: Hand-in-hand with the new functions’ time needs are memory needs.
  3. Increases in I/O: The trickiest of the lot. Sometimes it is just additional channels of existing I/O types but in some cases it is a need for new I/O types.

As a general rule of thumb, 80% to 85% memory process utilization at initial release provides a safe margin. For hardware, two spare channels of each type is generally safe. In the case where new I/O types may be required there are two options. The first is to select a hardware device that has product family members with additional I/O types. The second is a selection of a board that supports external I/O expansion slots.

Growth in the times of DevOps

Traditionally the updates to ECU software only happened when a new product was released and it happened “in the factor.” With the growth in “over air” updates (one of the driving features of DevOps) the starting metrics need to change. The rule of thumb will need to take into account the anticipated features to be released and determine which of those will be pushed for update. The type of features to be pushed will be heavily dependent on the product type with some products receiving very few updates (e.g., medical devices with high integrity workflows) while others such as consumer devices may receive frequent updates