How? Ford, he says, has learned to fix or update the software inside these microbrains rather than replace the units when they malfunction or need new applications. Ford dealers have the software to do the fixes.
Ford also is using this process, which it calls In-Vehicle Software, to reuse software codes written into the electronic control units on future vehicle models. Davey declined to quantify potential savings, except to say they are substantial.
The average Ford vehicle contained 2 million to 3 million lines of software code 10 years ago, he says. Today, with all the new electronic equipment and the need for various control modules to communicate with one another, the average vehicle has 10 million lines of code.
Prior to the In-Vehicle Software process, Ford often swapped out faulty electronic control units when they needed service, Davey says. That was an expensive solution. Those modules, which control everything from engines to adaptive cruise control, cost $100 to $350 apiece just for the hardware, he says.
The cost of labor was additional. And pulling out the hardware had the potential to introduce squeaks and rattles, he says.
Today, Ford supplies its dealers with the software needed to diagnose problems with the units and they can be fixed or updated by a simple re-flashing of the embedded software, says Dave Taylor, a senior global executive with Siemens PLM.
Siemens PLM, a business unit of Siemens AG in Germany, makes the product life cycle management software that Ford uses to flash applications into the electronic control modules at the factory and then track them throughout the life of a vehicle, Taylor says.