MADISON, Wis. — Mentor Graphics announced Tuesday the acquisition of XS Embedded GmbH, a Villengen-Schwenningen, Germany-based developer of automotive system architectures and hardware reference platforms.
The deal makes Mentor by far “the most complete” automotive embedded system company in the world, claimed Glenn Perry, general manager of Mentor’s Embedded Systems division, during a press briefing.
The tool vendor has been steadily amassing automotive-related system and software properties, since 1995 when the company bought Microtec Research to make its first foray into the embedded market.
Throughout the 2000’s, Mentor has continued a march into the automotive embedded market with a series of acquisitions. The company placed particular focus on Autosar, Linux, In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) and GENIVI, a non-profit industry alliance working on an open-source development platform for IVI.
XS Embedded, with its roots in Harman/Becker Automotive Systems GmbH, develops automotive-grade hardware systems, along with software solutions. They include an automotive-ready reference board, called AXSB, based on TI’s Jacinto 6 processor, and an automotive compute system using Freescale’s i.MX processor.
The addition of XS Embedded’s team and product lines brings two benefits to Mentor’s automotive customers, said Perry. Carmakers will be able to launch a product more quickly, with a head start in optimizing their hardware and software.
Of course, SoC suppliers already offer automotive SoCs with their reference designs. Perry, however, cautioned: “Often, those reference designs are not automotive grade. They are usually developed for use in different systems across many markets.”
For carmakers and Tier Ones investigating and verifying whether such a general-purpose reference design can meet automotive specs will be a time-consuming process, Perry stressed. While making such efforts, “they could easily miss a window of opportunities to launch their new products,” he warned.
Further, carmakers “could also miss the deadline for software and hardware architecture optimization.” By providing car OEMs with already optimized hardware designs, and polished and refined IPs, Mentor hopes to give them “a tremendous head start,” according to Perry.
The agreement between the two companies reflects “the extreme complexity” automakers and Tier Ones face today when they develop a new car, said Rainer Oder, managing director of XS Embedded. Automotive customers are pressed to find solutions that make hardware/software verification and optimization easier and faster.
More and more functions are getting crammed into a tiny SoC – in order to save cost and area. Coming soon is the use of a single processor to run different operating systems – Linux, Android and Nucleus RTOS — by using hypervisor. Virtualization is the key, but verification for such an SoC won’t be a cakewalk.
Complicating matters is a trend toward bringing together what used to be many separate boxes into a fewer boxes inside a car. The Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and Driver Information and IVI System, for example, are rapidly moving toward integration. Again, squeezing all this into a combined box can only make the verification process harder.
Oder also noted that more consumers are bringing their own devices — cellphones and tablets — into the car. Carmakers are forced to design both “isolation” and “updatability” for mobile devices “within the constraints of cars,” he explained. Isolation will be critical, said Oder, because “you don’t want an Android phone, for example, to interact with an in-vehicle bus system, thus a phone ends up remotely hitting the car’s brake.”
Fastboot and noise cancellation
XS Embedded is known for its software featuring a few key advantages over competitors. One is “fastboot” on Linux. “We can bring up images within 2 seconds from a rearview camera,” said Oder.
Another is audio processing, with software that offers active noise cancellation. Used inside a car, it can “filter out road noises” and create “a calm environment,” according to Oder. XS Embedded is already engaged with two unnamed OEMs on this software, he added.
Bringing XS Embedded together with Mentor’s automotive embedded systems’ group has one significant advantage, Perry summed up. It helps Mentor’s plan to “invest in a future where safety-certified blocks will be integrated.”
Mentor already has various automotive design teams with different engineering disciplines working on projects that range from ECUs, PCBs, cables and cable harnessing to embedded software and verification tools.
“These blocks will need to talk to one another; and their engineering teams must find ways to exchange information,” said Perry. Bridging disparate automotive engineering efforts will be critical to “accelerate in-vehicle network connectivity, and to optimize hardware and software partitioning,” Perry explained.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times