By adopting a customizable user-defined test system using the NI automated test platform, Hyundai Kefico achieved the shorter development time and faster test speed required for functional tests of powertrain ECUs in manufacturing.
Automotive technology is accelerating faster than ever before. Trends such as powertrain electrification, wide adoption of advanced safety systems, and enhanced driving and comfort functionalities have had a huge impact on the amount of software needed. As a result, electronic control units (ECUs) are more complex and in higher demand. One of the most important of these is the powertrain ECU. Beyond ensuring proper operation of the powertrain that moves the vehicle, these ECUs impact the environmental performance of the vehicle, its economy, and the driving experience – all factors that buyers consider seriously.
Hyundai Kefico, a subsidiary of Hyundai, has provided powertrain automotive electronics since 1972. Like other automotive suppliers keen to remain competitive, its engineers faced increased test demands and tighter emission regulations alongside budget and timeline challenges. When its powertrain ECUs reached 200 pins and the functional test needed to ensure quality stretched to 20,000 test steps for an increased variety of ECU types, it became clear that Hyundai Kefico could not use traditional test engineering approaches to keep up with the pace of vehicle electronics.
In the past, an ECU functional tester required the designing of sensor/actuator emulators, vehicle communication modules, test execution engines and applications, and test procedures, in addition to testing result management tools for each type of ECU. In other words, Hyundai Kefico had to develop a new tester for every new ECU, with minimum reuse of test engineering assets and a negative impact on the cost of testing.
To solve this problem, the company started with the development process, creating the Common Platform Tester (CP-Tester), and the standardized ECU Functional Tester development process. It based the CP-Tester on standardized test assets called CP-Standard, which define sensor/actuator emulation, vehicle communication, test execution (test engine), operator interface (test application) and test result management.
The CP-Tester has a few key components that streamline the test development process. R&D or product engineers can use a test scripting modeling tool called CP-Editor to configure each test step and parameter by choosing from over 200 pre-built functions to develop test sequences. They can map these test steps to the appropriate hardware I/O and reconfigure them for different ECU types.
The CP-Server is another component that engineers can use to effectively manage test result data to improve upon new test requirements. The CP-Tester provides engineers with three important benefits: shorter tester development times because of its adaptability to various types of powertrain ECUs; efficient use of test engineering assets (it can reuse and reconfigure test steps from R&D to manufacturing); and increased value from manufacturing test data due to data handling and traceability in standard formats.
Hyundai Kefico chose the NI PXI platform because it is better suited to deal with the complexity of the company’s powertrain ECUs. Among the benefits offered by NI PXI solutions are: high and flexible channel counts (over 200 pins) with different layouts; I/O configuration with source and measurement capabilities; the ability to connect dummy loads (resistance and inductance) to properly test ECUs; a wide variety of switching options and ease of use with NI-Switch to increase I/O flexibility; and the ability to customize I/O through FPGA to implement special sensor communication protocols such as SENT (Single Edge Nibble Transmission) and SAE J2716.
Most turnkey ECU testers on the market require 10 to 12 months to adopt new test plans for new products, and they still require significant interaction with the vendors. Given the importance of a short development time, Hyundai Kefico took advantage of NI’s automated test solutions to become independent and develop its own flexible standard tester within three months. This resulted in an 80% reduction in development time and will enable engineers to add functionality such as CAN with flexible data rates, as product requirements evolve.
At the company level, given the higher demands for ECUs, the NI PXI timing and synchronization features improved test time by 15% and cut the test system cost by 30%, helping make Hyundai Kefico more competitive in the market. In addition, the company can procure and assemble the
CP-Tester at any of its manufacturing sites worldwide, thanks to NI’s global presence.
For the first 17 CP-Testers, Hyundai Kefico achieved a 45% project return on investment, saving over US$1m compared to its previous solution.