Quality Magazine

Advanced Engineering Tools Guide Student Teams to Develop ‘Green' Cars of the Future

May 8, 2009

DETROIT--EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge announced that three of the competition’s Platinum Sponsors, dSPACE, National Instruments and The MathWorks, are providing more than $2,300,000 of hardware and software tools to help student teams design the green cars of the future. EcoCAR teams learn real-world automotive engineering practices through the use of Model-Based Design and graphical system design technologies that include hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) and software-in-the-loop (SIL), which help to bring the students’ vehicle visions from concept to the road. Students will unveil their final designs at the competition finals in Toronto June 12, 2009.

Model-Based Design is a process that provides professional engineers with real-time, cost-effective simulation. In the competition, it enables the student engineering teams to test virtual versions of their vehicles before the actual designs are assembled. The technology serves as a crucial first step in the vehicular development by allowing students to calculate real-world conditions using advanced models, basically creating a virtual car. The EcoCAR students are working in teams to iterate on “what if” scenarios to validate their assumptions in a simulated environment to test hybrid controls strategies using SIL technology from The MathWorks and National Instruments. With their designs fully tested, they are trying out their work in HIL systems supplied by National Instruments and dSPACE.

dSPACE, a Michigan-based manufacturer of mechatronic control systems, is contributing a complete product line of tools for embedded software development and testing with a cumulative value of more than $1 million. These tools include: MicroAutoBox, Rapid Control Prototyping (RCP) systems, HIL simulators, measurement and calibration hardware and software, autocode generating software and other tools.

Throughout the design phase, EcoCAR students are using the dSPACE Simulator, which enables them to cover every conceivable test scenario ranging from testing single engine control units to integration testing of the whole vehicle. The EcoCAR teams using dSPACE’s HIL technology include Howard University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Victoria, University of Waterloo and West Virginia University.

National Instruments is supporting teams by donating more than $300,000 worth of engineering hardware and software to the EcoCAR competition in 2009. This donation of modular, flexible, cost-effective equipment, that includes NI LabVIEW graphical system design software, CompactRIO in-vehicle embedded control systems and PXI modular simulation systems provides an entire HIL solution for several teams. The student teams are using these tools to design, prototype and deploy their vehicles and tackle the unique algorithm engineering challenges associated with developing advanced hybrid vehicles.

EcoCAR teams using HIL technology from National Instruments include Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Georgia Tech, Michigan Tech University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Texas Tech, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin and Virginia Tech. Two of these teams, Embry-Riddle and Virginia Tech also are using the National Instruments SIL solution for their projects.

The MathWorks, a Natick, MA-based company committed to advancing education in engineering, science, and math, is donating software for Model-Based Design, including its core software MATLAB and Simulink. The company is also delivering intensive training to all student teams and faculty advisors and providing experienced automotive industry consultants as mentors who work closely with students throughout the three-year competition. To date, The MathWorks has provided more than $1 million in product and in-kind donations to the competition. All seventeen EcoCAR teams are using The MathWorks tools for Model-Based Design.