The value of modern systems, such as automotive and aerospace vehicles, has become heavily influenced by their electronic content. Consequently, selecting the right electronic components and choosing the optimal design methodology is vital in developing a successful product. The flexibility of new components, such as FPGA devices, is intriguing. The potential of these devices, however, cannot be fully (and safely) utilized without incorporating the latest design and verification methodologies.
FPGA devices are already heavily used in aerospace applications. The widespread use of FPGA devices in automotive applications, however, has not yet arrivedbut trends reported by mainstream automotive suppliers indicate that the potential advantages of these devices have not gone unnoticed1. The capacity of these devices to implement and integrate both software and digital-hardware functionalityon a single componentis very attractive. Certain challenges remain, such as ensuring that these devices are compatible with harsh automotive environments and are compliant with the exacting reliability requirements of the industry. The biggest challenge in utilizing FPGA devices, however, may be one of methodology.
Design methodologies for automotive and aerospace applications must consider the complexities of mechatronic2 systems. Even something as simple as an electronic throttle control system (see Figure 1) is a sophisticated combination of feedback control systems, analog and digital circuitry, multi-physics sensors and actuatorsall controlling an electromechanical physical device (an engine throttle body in this example). The importance of unambiguous, verifiable system requirements to the success of these electronic products cannot be overemphasized.
Figure 1. Electronic throttle control system (click on image to enlarge).