Chevy Volt: Does Your Car Have its Own IP Address?

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the most technically advanced cars on the market today. It is currently 40 percent software (with approximately 10 million lines of code) and has more than 100 electronic controls. One important key to the operation of the vehicle was GM’s decision to work with IBM to utilize a "system of systems" approach."

Over the last several years, GM and IBM have been working closely together, with GM using IBM products to develop the embedded control systems for our vehicles, including the Volt," says Eric Gassenfeit, global director, electrical, controls and software development for GM.

"Jointly, we use the IBM tools for some of the controls that are in the Volt."IBM provides software and simulation tools to help GM engineers design and develop the software in the advanced control systems of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, which was designed and engineered in a mere 29 months."IBM purchased Telelogic two years ago to gain more relevance and traction in the systems space," says Meg Selfe, vice president, complex and embedded systems for IBM Rational Software. "We wanted to signal to the market that we are serious about product development and systems engineering. By focusing on bringing innovation to product development and systems engineering, and allowing our clients to harness that innovation, clients can move into a more ‘pure innovate’ environment."

IBM has been helping GM standardize its vehicle design by minimizing software tools and creating a common, collaborative design process. For example, IBM’s supercomputers and simulation software allowed GM test teams to meet thousands of specifications and to validate each of the 2011 Volt battery’s 161 components.

The Volt’s propulsion system required the design of the "system of systems" approach, centered on software that integrates the Volt’s battery pack with its electric drive unit and cabin electronics. According to Gassenfeit, about 30 percent to 40 percent of the Volt’s value is in the electronics, including software, controls, wiring harnesses, sensors.

"With the system of systems approach, we treat things in integration, rather than in aggregate," says Gassenfeit. A vehicle has a power train, lighting, chassis controls, and the like. Traditionally, these operate largely independent of one another, rather than as an integrated system. "We are now working on high levels of integration," he adds.

For example, Gassenfeit says, "We are fusing the various propulsion systems of the vehicle, such as the electric motor, the battery, and power electronics." In the past, these were mechanically coupled to a traditional power train. Now, they are coupled electronically, where the engine may only be there to run a generator and provide electric energy when needed to propel the vehicle.

"We also have consumer electronics abilities in the vehicle, such as being able to download a party invitation from Facebook to the vehicle’s navigation system, and have the car provide direction to the party," Gassenfeit adds.

"GM has been able to use our software development tools, systems, approaches and methodologies in order to cut the development time by half, if not more, and to better be able to manage the complexity of the design," adds Selfe.

Gassenfeit sees says the benefits of the system of systems approach are only starting to be realized. "For example, there will be a great deal of work to standardize interfaces and services in how these vehicles connect with the Internet," he says. "In the future, a car will actually become a node on the Internet, having its own IP address." In fact, the 2011 Volt already does have its own IP address built into each car.

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