What Is an Electrical/Electronic Architecture?

The term “electrical/electronic architecture” refers to the convergence of electronics hardware, network communications, software applications and wiring into one integrated system that controls an ever-increasing number of vehicle functions in the areas of vehicle control, body and security, infotainment, active safety, and other comfort, convenience, and connectivity functionality.

The first integration of electrical and mechanical systems occurred in the late 1950s with the advent of basic cruise control. In the ’60s, there were audio and lighting enhancements; in the ’70s, new emissions controls spurred advances in E/E architecture; and by the ’90s, managing the complexity of the electrical/electronic architecture was becoming an issue for OEMs. In the early 2000s, data and communication protocols drove new product requirements, and in the past decade, OEMs have focused on features and regulations governing occupant safety, driver distraction and fuel economy, which have led to adoption of high-voltage powertrains and systems.

Looking toward the future, E/E architectures will have to accommodate advances in automated driving, expanded infotainment, 5G connectivity and, most importantly, increased vehicle electrification. The traditional approach of incrementally adding new electronic control units (ECUs) with their own power, processing, data and connectivity for each new function no longer works; it will not scale to accommodate all of the new requirements for computing power, data processing and power distribution.

At the same time, OEMs are trying to automate the assembly of the wiring harnesses that serve as the backbone of the E/E architecture and have now become one of the most complex and unwieldy components of the vehicle.

The rise of all-electric vehicles is the tipping point that gives OEMs the opportunity to start fresh and create a new electrical/electronic architecture from the ground up — an architecture that considers the power and data needs of every electrical device in the vehicle and meets those needs in the most streamlined and integrated way possible.

The potential benefits and opportunities are impressive. OEMs that get it right will have a competitive advantage in delivering a better digital user experience.

Aptiv’s Smart Vehicle Architecture

What OEMS need is a new E/E architecture that simplifies design, centralizes computing power and optimizes electrical/electronic content, components and functionality. Aptiv designed its Smart Vehicle Architecture (SVA™) to meet these needs in several ways:

  • Reduce Complexity: SVA simplifies the hardware and software topology within the vehicle, and reduces the interdependencies between multiple ECUs.
  • Unite Diverse Applications: SVA integrates software from different domains across the vehicle to unlock new functionality and improve life cycle management.
  • Empower OEMs: SVA gives OEMs the ability to fully control the software that defines the user experience of their vehicles and enables them to enhance that functionality over time.

SVA accomplishes these goals by decoupling software from hardware to allow faster release cycles and incremental updates, separating input/output from compute by managing connections to sensors and other devices via zone controllers, and dynamically allocating compute resources among applications as needed.

This new type of holistic, vehicle-level approach reduces total cost of ownership through all phases of the vehicle life cycle, from development to manufacturing to postproduction. And it enables OEMs to deliver the types of digital user experiences that consumers are demanding.