NI Launches New ECU Test System to Streamline Functional Test

NI the provider of a software-defined platform that helps accelerate the development and performance of the automated test and automated measurement systems, today announced its ECU Test System offering.

The shift in vehicles from mechanical to electronic systems has amplified the number and complexity of electronic control units (ECUs) in modern consumer vehicles. Together, a network of more than 100 ECUs comprise the “brain” of a modern vehicle. This brain powers all the innovations we see in vehicle safety, connectivity, efficiency and comfort. ECUs improve safety through ADAS features like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning systems. These controllers also provide more precise engine control, thus offering more performance from the same internal combustion engine. Another benefit is comfort and convenience, such as luxury seats that automatically adjust to your fob or rain-sensing windshield wiper systems that adjust speed with the downpour.

As ECUs become more prevalent, the need to test each controller becomes more important than ever before. However, as ECUs (and the features they support) become more advanced, testing also grows more complex. The automotive industry is struggling to address this challenge. According to this US 2019 Automotive Defect Recall Report, there were three times as many software related recalls in 2018 than in any previous year. These defects also accounted for a third of all vehicles recalled in the US that year.

NI recognizes the challenges and significance of end-of-line testing, as it’s the last test before the unit ships to the supplier and is integrated into the OEM’s production line. For a multitude of reasons, suppliers struggle to deliver functional testers on time and within budget. NI wants to help alleviate this stress, which is why it’s launching its first ever purpose-built system for testing automotive ECUs, and pilot customers are already seeing the results.

“Partnering with NI to solve our ECU functional test challenges has lowered our total cost of test while maintaining high quality standards,” said Sergio Mejia, I&IE test engineer at Vitesco Technologies. “By standardizing on NI testers, we reduced cycle and development time, increased system re-use and made debugging, deploying and maintenance easier.”

The ECU Test System (ECUTS) is a best-of-both worlds solution that combines standardization with the flexibility to drive efficiency in tester development, maintenance and test time. NI integrated the first level of common components into a standardized test architecture to save customers time in the development process and to simplify tester maintenance. Because of the modular PXI design, testing is flexible and can scale across a range of body, chassis and powertrain ECUs (based on the instrumentation selected). In addition, high-performance hardware (powered by TestStand) can help reduce test time. As many as four DUTs can be tested in parallel with a single test system.

How the ECUTS helps lower the total cost of test and set suppliers up for success:

  • Accelerate development with a higher level starting point. The Systems R&D team has already integrated instrumentation, cabling, loads, switching and a mass interconnect into a core rack so customers can focus on building the right test sequences to thoroughly test ECUs.
  • Standardize on a global architecture for functional test of body, chassis and powertrain ECUs. The benefits from this range from leveraging standardized comprehensive service programs, to reusing operator training courses, to being able to correlate data across sites.
  • Reduce test cycle time by testing up to four ECUs in parallel.
  • Reduce floor space by using one high-throughput tester to do what several used to.
  • Reduce risk of downtime through improved system reliability and maintainability with built in troubleshooting tools and global service programs that streamline repairs and exchanges.

Lowering the cost of test for ECUs frees up both monetary and cognitive capital so test engineers can solve today’s problems and innovate on the test challenges of tomorrow. Instead of scrambling to meet the next deadline, NI wants to empower test teams to feel agile and confident that they can deliver testers on time and within budget.

Learn more about the ECU Test System (ECUTS).