Today’s generation of automobiles, from hybrids to electric cars, is increasingly dependent on complex computer software that controls everything from safety features to emission controls, fuel efficiency and electrification itself. An average vehicle can require more than 100 million lines of software code to support its electronic control units.
Automotive engineers require sophisticated tools to manage such massive amounts of code and the information they use to develop this software. That’s why General Motors (GM) of Canada Ltd. and IBM Canada joined forces with leading software engineers at seven universities and a Montréal research centre, forming the Network on Engineering Complex Software Intensive Systems for Automotive Systems (NECSIS).
Ottawa-based Malina Software Corp., another member of NECSIS, specializes in model-driven engineering. By using models that simplify complex software designs and documents, Malina produces better products and improves the productivity of software developers. IBM is already at the forefront of this technology, and General Motors is interested in making model-driven engineering the basis of its software engineering efforts.
“With model-driven engineering, we believe we can be number one in the world in terms of productivity and quality of software,” says Justin Gammage, chief scientist at GM of Canada.
Promoting that calibre of excellence in information and communications technology is the reason the Government of Canada has invested $10.5 million in the network. The investment comes through a five-year grant from Automotive Partnership Canada, a partnership among five federal research and granting agencies that supports significant, collaborative research and development activities.
Many of GM’s software-based products influence the operation of critical safety functions in automobiles, such as steering, braking and propulsion. That’s why GM regards model-driven engineering as a vital tool.
“Because of safety demands, we must get the product right from the outset, and this approach will give us the confidence that the programs we are developing contain no mission-critical defects,” Gammage adds.
Software engineering is increasingly going to be the sector within the automotive industry that generates new jobs and innovations that will benefit Canadians.
“Canada has created an enormous innovation engine around software engineering, and we’re confident that NECSIS will provide a foundation for other automotive R&D collaborations with Canada’s highly talented software engineering research community,” says Gammage.