Enhancing Efficiency: Automated Testing in Decentralized, Intelligent Cabin Networks

Challenges of Digital Cabins
The development and implementation of new cabin applications, such as intelligent lighting controls or the integration of new sensors, involves a great deal of effort. New hardware must first be selected and procured before the required interface drivers and the actual software can be developed. Extensive tests are then required to rule out the occurrence of errors in all possible configurations. Thus, a lot of time passes before a new application is implemented.

Innovation project VERDIKA
In the joint research project VERDIKA (German acronym for: Vernetzte Digitale Kabine/Connected Digital Cabin, funded by BMWK), ZAL developed a new approach to reduce development time and the effort required for integration and testing. The focus here was on innovative decentralized cabin architectures in which the computing power is transferred by the microcontroller-based ZAL endpoints from the central electrics and electronics compartment (the so-called E-Bay) to the cabin, directly where it is needed.

Reduced development cycles
To minimize the development time by building the infrastructure before the final implementation with all the components, a carrier board with two ZAL endpoints was developed. The endpoints are connected to each other with standardized communication interfaces (I2C, UART, SPI) and they simulate the microcontroller and sensor relationship. The software of the ZAL Endpoints is first checked by a  continuous integration pipeline and then it is compiled. After compilation, the ZAL Endpoints are flashed with the new firmware via an Ethernet connection using over-the-air updates.

Flexibility through over-the-air updates
Over-the-air updates can be selected based on the device, and firmware version. Thus, multiple devices can be flashed at the same time with the same firmware. Additionally, it is possible to flash different devices with the same firmware if the firmware is device agnostic. This enables the devices to flash with firmware that is not strictly related to the previous flashed firmware and therefore simulate a wide variety of hardware. This approach greatly reduces the development time by immediately proceeding with the implementation of the system architecture and dynamically assigning the function of ZAL endpoints via over-the-air updates.

VERDIKA demonstrates that efficiency improvements in cabin configurations are possible. With the help of advanced technologies, processes can be optimized, and the development time significantly reduced – an important step towards an increasingly digital cabin.