What an Engineer Should Know Automotive Embedded Systems (Part 2)

When learning the basics of automotive embedded systems, students often wonder about the job roles in this domain. The key fact is that the sector offers a variety of career paths at the entry-level. To understand which one you're best suited for, here's a detailed rundown that talks about companies and job profiles in this field.

Leading Automotive Embedded Systems Companies 

OEMs

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are the various firms that manufacture automobiles. The best examples include Maruti-Suzuki, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Hyundai, and TATA Motors. 

Tier 1 Firms: Suppliers 

Tier 1 firms collaborate with OEMs to manufacture electronic control units (ECUs). They make specific parts and supply them to the OEMs, who assemble the components. Examples of such companies are Visteon (a leading name in instrument cluster manufacturing in India), Pricol (two-wheeler parts), Harman (audio equipment), and Continental. 

Tier 2 Firms: Service Providers

Tier 2 firms handle the R&D work and maintenance for the suppliers. Examples of tier 2 companies are L&T Technology Services and Tech Mahindra. 

Tool-Chain Providers 

The tool-chain providers handle all software additions and updates. Companies that specialize in real-time operating systems (RTOS) include GreenHills and QNX, and the firms that specialize in AUTOSAR are Vector and Elektrobit. There are other companies in this category that provide protocol stacks, PCB designs, and manufacture, debuggers, etc. 

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Career Paths 

From the essential requirements and understanding of the vehicle features to the final testing of the product, various departments and people are involved in the process. The first step is finding out why you should create and install a new ECU to the vehicle. These are the other phases that happen until the final product dispatch. 

HMI Design

If the product is an interactive tool or something that involves display and audio, HMI design comes into play. If you have excellent UI/UX skills or graphic designing experience using Photoshop or Illustrator, you can work in this segment and put your creativity to use. 

If you are familiar with animation software like GL Studio or Altia, you can design how the messages should be displayed and how the interactive interface would be. 

Network Design 

As a network designer, your job is to ensure a smooth flow of communication between devices and between vehicles. Even the simple act of switching the AC on and off requires a lot of signal processing. You need to understand the vehicular features, communication protocols, and concepts like signal design and data packaging.  

Software Development 

Software development has two primary categories: application software and device drivers. The former deals with the business project, including coding using languages like C++. The latter deals with the hardware components, the heart of the embedded system. 

Apart from these two main categories, there are several other career paths in the software development domain. 

  • Knowledge of software tools like programming languages, computer vision, and RTOS helps you get an application software role, whereas hardware skills, including IoT, analog, and digital systems, are useful for a position in device drivers.
  • If you are familiar with boot loader software, flashing protocols, and flashing tools, you have even more opportunities. Board support package and Board bring-up are two other areas that are hardware-intensive.
  • Earlier, every OEM had its own development architecture, but AUTOSAR has made it standardized across the industry. So, you would be expected to know the tool-chain involved in AUTOSAR development, at least for one particular tool. Similarly, most manufacturers use embedded Linux/Kernel for software development because it is open-source and cheap.
  • If you want to take up the post of a functional safety engineer, your role would involve checking the rules and safety standards and ensure that the software and hardware components take those into consideration.
  • If you are well-versed with MATLAB, you can work as a model-based developer. The applications of model-based development are widespread, from simulations to machine learning to secured implementation.
  • If you are skilled at computer vision and image processing, you can handle all the tools that involve cameras, like parking assistants and lane navigation assistants.
  • Lastly, those in the software development domain are responsible for the integration of all the software and hardware components in the vehicle for one release. Once these tasks are completed, the product moves to the testing stage.

Software Testing

Software in-loop testing, model in-loop testing, and hardware in-loop testing are the main types of software testing modes. White-box testing and static analysis are methods to test the robustness of the code before integrating it with the hardware. Optimizing the software concerning the performance metric (reducing signal response time or storage, say) is called memory profiling. 

Test Automation

There are several tools available to test only the automation component of the vehicle. The commonly used ones are Python, CAPL Scripting (CAN-based testing), and C# (DLLs).  

Hardware Development and Testing

As a hardware developer, your job profile would include component selection, schematic design, PCB design, and circuit simulation. One way you measure the performance characteristics of your hardware is through benchmarking.

Prototype testing is the first step (only the product), followed by system integration testing (along with the other components) to test the hardware product(s). 

Vehicle Testing

The final stage is called vehicle testing, where you have a car already built with the software components and ECUs, and you test it to meet some production milestones. 

A summary of the processes

Job Designations

  • Entry Level: Every stage mentioned above has openings for entry-level positions, from a requirements engineer to a software engineer, a PCB designer, and a diagnostics tester.
  • Senior Level: At the senior level, you will be supervising other engineers in the respective categories. You will have the responsibility for integrating the products across stages.
  • Top Management: You can take up leadership roles like a project manager or delivery manager to govern the overall process from start to finish.

Case Study: Integrated Digital Cockpit 

As mentioned before, the integrated digital cockpit is the collective name for the three ECUs: the instrument cluster, the infotainment system, and a head-up display. 

A single System-on-Chip (SoC) is used to implement all three ECUs. The standalone applications of each run independently on the multi-core SoC, made possible today by the Hypervisor technology that supports parallel execution and transfer of information between the different cores. 

The primary objective is to ensure smooth communication between the ECUs without any lag. The single SoC optimizes resource usage and brings down the manufacturing cost too.  

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Conclusion

Thus, the field of automotive embedded systems offers a variety of job openings at the entry-level for budding engineers. If you are an engineering student that's interested in working in this sector, you need to have excellent training in this area through a full-fledged course. 

To enroll in a master certification course, check out Skill-Lync and register today! 

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