In recent decades, automotive OEMs and Tier 1 vendors have launched transformations that could hardly be imagined in any other industry. Think about it: If twenty years ago someone had told you that electric cars would become common on city streets, you would probably have considered it a joke. Now, in 2019, global electric car sales are expected to reach 2 million, compared to 1.6 million in 2018.
And there’s no doubt about it: autonomous driving is the next groundbreaking technology that will radically change the face of our cities. But let’s get down to business. Why are millions of people around the globe still not ready to start using the most technologically advanced vehicles? The two main concerns of end users are comfort and safety. Almost 80% of Americans admit that they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle.
Almost 80% of Americans are afraid of riding in an autonomous vehicle primarily due to safety concerns.
A brand-new communication tool lies at the core of building trust between machines and users. Safe and comfortable driving cannot be imagined without an automotive body control module. This module monitors and controls many things in order to keep crucial electronics running smoothly. Well-targeted software solutions for body control modules (BCMs) may personalize cars for users and bring safety and comfort to a new level.
Body control modules: functions, benefits, and challenges
The rapidly increasing demand for driving comfort and safety inevitably leads to the need for a cutting-edge vehicle electrical system architecture. A comprehensive body control module system is aimed at communicating and integrating the work of all electronic modules through the vehicle bus. Strictly speaking, a BCM is an embedded system that controls load drivers and coordinates activation of auto electronics units.
The microcontrollers and connectors integrated into a BCM constitute the central structural unit of the system responsible for the controlling part. Operating data is transmitted to the control module through input devices. These may include sensors, vehicle performance indicators, and variable reactors.
After data is processed by the module, a response signal is generated through integrated output devices, including relays and solenoids. Through the system of output devices, the BCM coordinates the work of various electronics systems. This diagram of a body control module design shows a customized circuit that works as a gateway connecting and integrating smaller circuits.
General representation of a body control module
What are the main functions of a BCM?
A BCM can perform a wide range of functions. Output devices are managed based on data received from input devices via CAN (Controller Area Network), LIN (Local Interconnect Network), or Ethernet as the means of communication with modules and systems. Electronic systems that can be integrated and controlled via a BCM include:
- Energy management systems
- Access/driver authorization systems
- Advanced driver assistance systems
- Power windows
A BCM can perform multiple control-related operations simultaneously. One of the major objectives of this module is to detect malfunctions in the work of electrical system components. Integral body control module features include:
- Ensuring safety, testing, and control of crucial electrical loads, including lights, immobilizers, air conditioning systems, locking systems, and windscreen wipers
- Maintaining communication between integrated control units via the vehicle bus system (CAN, LIN, or Ethernet)
- Working as an integration gateway
- Providing a user-friendly interface for complex data management
BCM is challenging. But it’s also remarkably beneficial
You may have heard that programming a BCM can cost a bundle, but this is only part of the issue. Developing body control module software is indeed a remarkably challenging and complex process. These are the major challenges associated with BCM programming:
- Increased performance needs
- Increased number of input/output processors and channels
- The need to develop a cycle of more complex modules
- The problem of power consumption in both run and sleep modes
In-car electronics controlled via BCM
The benefits associated with a BCM substantially outweigh these challenges and shortcomings, however. Once auto electronic units are integrated and controlled via a body control module system, you can forget about conventional replacement and repair of car electronics. Here’s what you get with a BCM:
- Fewer electronic modules and fewer cables
- Reduced vehicle weight
- Increased fuel efficiency
- Lower manufacturing costs
- Lower total cost of ownership
BCM development: effectiveness through integration
Electronic control units (ECUs) in vehicles are constantly becoming more complex and continue to increase in number. There are approximately 100 ECUs in a typical modern car, aimed at reinforcing overall performance by improving human-machine interfaces, telematics, engine function, battery life, and other things. The complexity of ECUs is a major factor underlying the need to develop integrated body control module software.
Approximately 100 ECUs in a modern car help to improve human-machine interfaces, telematics, engine function, and battery life.
OEMs should consider BCM programming a requirement for their developers. Customized body control module software must be developed for each specific case. Yet the general requirements of this software are the same:
- Cost-efficient performance
- Focus on reliability and safety
- Energy efficiency
- Scalability, cross-model solutions, mastering of complexity
- Diversification and fast product cycles
- Support of global OEM platforms and growth in new markets
- Integration of advanced data management features
- Compliance with ISO 26262, SPICE, and AUTOSAR 4.0 standards
Consumer and OEM functionality improved with a BCM
Embedded BCM solutions
The growing role of embedded software is one of the major trends defining automotive development. Demand for complex embedded automotive solutions stems primarily from the small size of these systems. The embedded software development market is expected to reach $233 billion by 2021. Advanced embedded electronics enable auto manufacturers to implement new location navigators in cars, diagnose symptoms of potential malfunctions, and avoid premature replacement of mechanical parts.
The embedded software development market is expected to reach $233 billion by 2021.
Embedded solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT) are also used extensively in body control module design. Today, embedded software is used to develop two major types of architectures for BCMs: centralized and distributed. Centralized architectures require fewer modules with high functionality compared to distributed architectures, which are built with a smaller number of modules and more communication interfaces. A distributed BCM architecture is more flexible, yet it’s not possible to reach the level of optimization of an ECU with a centralized structure.
ECU network in a modern car
Overcoming challenges of BCM development
The four major challenges when developing body control module software are increased performance needs, increased number of input/output processors and channels, the need to develop a cycle of more complex modules, and the problem of power consumption in both run and sleep modes. Several practical solutions can be applied to overcome these challenges.
Separate input/output processors can be used to offload interrupt handling. Increased performance needs can also be met by applying sophisticated software architectures like AUTOSAR. To avoid problems associated with an increased number of input/output processors and channels, eSwitches with a Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) saving Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) channels can be used. Cost-effective Quad Flat Packages (QFPs) may also help to resolve the issue of power consumption in run and sleep modes. Finally, to develop a cycle of more complex modules, a rapid prototyping service can be applied.
The growing number of electronic control units in vehicles reinforces demand for a complex software solution to integrate, manage, and control car electronics through a single gateway. The automotive central body control module represents an indispensable solution to meet growing market request by OEMs, Tier 1 vendors, and end users. A BCM lets cars use fewer electronic modules and fewer cables, reducing the car’s weight, improving fuel consumption and power efficiency, and reducing the manufacturing costs as well as total cost of ownership.
Most importantly, a BCM increases safety and comfort, uncovering brand-new opportunities for self-driving technology development. BCM programming is based on complex embedded software solutions that require profound expertise and advanced programming skills. The Intellias team has a remarkable portfolio of automotive software and lots of experience testing it in real cars. We’re eager to deliver customized embedded BCM solutions to meet your most ambitious goals.
Intellias experts know how to make your cars work safely and smoothly with the help of a body control module system. Contact us and make your move toward the new standard of driving.