With car companies adding more cameras, digital display screens, active safety systems and other technology to their vehicles with each passing year, they are starting to rely more and more on computer and software engineers to not only make their vehicles work properly, but also safeguard them from hackers and cyberattacks.
Gary Bandurski, executive director of global electric components and subsystems, recently spoke to Design News about the processes GM’s internal computer and software validation team uses to ensure the computers in new Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles work as intended.
Bandurski works alongside the executive director of GM’s global validation arm, Kristin Siemen. GM did not have separate engineering and validation teams previously, but in the wake of the ignition switch scandal, the automaker decided it was best to separate the employees who create the products from the employees who test them.
One project GM’s validation team was comfortable showing to Design News was its “Summarized Time to Rearview camera iMage device” or “STORM.” The tiny electric box is placed in front of a vehicle display screen as it runs a test cycle. A camera then watches the screen as the test cycle runs, logging instances in which the rearview camera image fails to pop up. This test is used to ensure the rearview camera image appears when the car is put in reverse, no matter what else is being used or activated inside the cabin at the time. The STORM device saved GM engineers about more than a month’s worth of time, condensing six weeks of manual validation work into just 12 hours.
Another similar automated validation test the team runs uses a robotic green arm with a rubber nub on the end, which tests various button combinations on the vehicle touchscreens for pairing smartphones, going through and ensuring the phone and screen respond appropriately. GM also has to go out and get new phones for this test each year, assembling the latest models to ensure they pair up with the screen as intended.
The validation team has also been particularly busy developing GM’s Global B digital architecture – a new connected vehicle electronics platform that enables over-the-air updates and is designed to safeguard GM owners from cyberattacks. This system will power the interlinked computer systems of virtually all new GM vehicles and is already being used in the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, Tahoe and Suburban and the 2020 Cadillac CT4 and CT5. Bandurski told Design News the wiring harness for the system weighs 125 pounds and is made up of over two miles of wiring, to get a sense of how complex the system is for both the engineering and validation teams to work with.
GM’s computer and software engineering workforce is likely only set to grow in the coming years as the automaker moves most of its vehicles to Global B, expands its usage of active safety systems and releases more electric vehicles.
Source: Design News