As technology in the aerospace and automotive industries continues to evolve, the underlying computing must advance at the same pace to support it. New vehicles run on increasingly complex software algorithms, including artificial intelligence – core to the abilities of self-driving cars, for example, and other computer-assisted safety functions.
These software systems must be able to parse vast quantities of data taken from the environment and react to it in milliseconds. This level of computing is something only possible using multicore processors, devices made up of several processing units all on a single circuit.
To ensure the efficiency and safety of software running on multicore processors, their timing abilities must be analysed and certified. But to date there have been no commercial software tools advanced enough to handle this task and meet all the requirements set by regulators.
“The lack of a consolidated multicore timing analysis strategy is one of the main obstacles to the use of advanced software functions in these critical industries,” says Francisco Cazorla, director of the CAOS group at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and coordinator of MASTECS.
The EU-funded MASTECS project created the first certification-ready multicore timing analysis (MTA) tool and service capable of handling the complexity of these processors. The main goal of MASTECS was to bring a commercial product to market, along with expertise and consultancy services to the software industry.
Through upgrading their technology to a readiness level fit for commercial sales, the MASTECS team succeeded in their main goals.
“Outstanding commercial interest has been arising around the proposed MTA technology already in the course of the project, leading to a solid pipeline of commercial projects and the creation of a spin-off company by the BSC,” adds Cazorla.
The new MTA strategy will help support a new era of autonomous vehicles, and may also make the next wave of vehicles more environmentally friendly.
“Enabling the certification of software running on multicore processors is pivotal to increase product competitive edge, potentially leading to reduced fatalities on the road, safer and cheaper air travel and decreased CO2 emissions from planes and cars,” remarks Cazorla.
Building on prior technology
To develop the new MTA certification strategy, the MASTECS project advanced two existing software technologies.
Rapita Systems, a British software company and one of the four MASTECS partners, updated its Rapita Verification Suite (RVS) infrastructure, with advanced instrumentation capabilities, additional code testing features, and improved data processing, analysis and viewing.
The BSC consolidated its multicore software microbenchmark technology, which comprises three key elements. The first is microbenchmarks, which are small snippets of code that continuously create access to specific pieces of hardware. The second key component is the ‘Task Contention Model’, a software tool that works out early execution time estimates of a program running on a multicore processor. The third element is the ‘Surrogate Application Generator’, which creates synthetic programs that mimic the use of multicore resources by software applications.
Testing the test
Developing the new software was one part of the project, but the MASTECS team needed to validate their own technology. They did this successfully in two trials in the aerospace and automotive industries, run by MASTECS partners Collins Aerospace Ireland and Marelli Europe, respectively.
Due to the success of these tests, the MTA solution was upgraded from a technology readiness level (TRL) 6 to a TRL 8, meaning it has been proven to work in realistic conditions and is ready to enter the commercial market.
Specifically, the MASTECS team improved the tool’s automation, making it more appropriate for industrial use. They also tailored the software, taking into account the qualification and certification requirements in the target industries, to ensure the product could be implemented seamlessly and used widely.
In its 24 months, MASTECS has successfully launched its technology, bringing five commercial products to the market and creating the spin-off company.
“We started with the main ideas behind multicore timing analysis years ago,” Cazorla explains. “Since then, we have matured the technology to TRL 8 and a product that is now being successfully commercialised.”