AutoPlug: An Automotive Test-bed for Remote Electronic Controller Unit Diagnostics, Testing, and Verification

Source Organization:
University:University of Pennsylvania
Principal Investigator:Rahul Mangharam
PI Contact Information:200 S. 33rd Street, 203 Moore Building, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
Tel: 215-573-3636.
Project Manager:Courtney Ehrlichman
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization):UTC
Total Dollars:
Agency ID/Contract/Grant Number:DTRT12GUTC11
Start and End Dates:1/1/12 – 12/31/13
Project Status:Complete
Subject Categories:Testing and Verification

We are developing AutoPlug, an automotive Electronic Controller Unit (ECU) test-bed to diagnose, test, update and verify controls software in a vehicle. AutoPlug consists of multiple ECUs interconnected by a CAN bus, a vehicle driving simulator which behaves as the plant model and a vehicle controls monitor in Matlab. As the ECUs drive the simulated vehicle, the physics-based simulation provides feedback to the controllers in terms of acceleration, yaw, friction and vehicle stability. This closed-loop platform is then used to evaluate multiple vehicle control software modules such as traction, stability and cruise control. With this test-bed we are aim to develop ECU software diagnosis and testing to evaluate the effect on the stability and performance of the vehicle. Code updates can be executed via a smart phone so drivers may remotely "patch" their vehicle. This closed-loop automotive control test-bed allows the automotive research community to explore the capabilities and challenges of safe and secure remote code updates for vehicle recalls management.

In the current year, we are extending AutoPlug to include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) – (for details see to evaluate control algorithms and security attacks on ECUs. We will demonstrate the effect of sensor noise, limited field of view and other non-idealities on the performance of ACC. Initial versions of AutoPlug have been demonstrated to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. We have also demonstrated this to Intel Corporation, Toyota Infotech Center, BOSCH Research and General Motors.

Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented):
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated):

In 2010, over 20.3 Million cars were recalled. An increasing percentage of the recalls are due to two reasons: (a) For the 100 million lines of software code and over 60 microprocessors in each car, software bugs for traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes and cruise control have accounted for over 13% of recalls, and are increasing rapidly; (b) With more stringent emissions standards, recalls due to malfunctioning exhaust systems have been escalating and vehicles must be disabled when in violation of emissions guidelines. The focus of this collaborative effort between Penn and GM is to develop automotive telematics architecture for diagnostics and control from a Remote Diagnostics Center (RDC). This will enable remote testing of vehicle software and emissions compliance, trigger perturbations to safely adapt the system, help with preemptive root cause analysis and assist the service center in resolving the problem with minimum waste. We will focus on the car and cloud architecture, communications protocols and remote diagnostics methodologies for diesel aftertreatment systems.

With the regulatory requirement of Super Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicles (SULEV) starting to roll out by 2016, the Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter will be 10 times lower than current standards. With today’s diesel aftertreatment systems, this will result in a significant recall of vehicles violating the new emissions standards. The proposed research will develop both the control systems mechanisms in the vehicle and at the RDC to rapidly detect a problem and trigger remote control signals between the engine and emissions control systems for the vehicle to adapt and remedy the problem. If successful, the proposed research will demonstrate the value of cloud-based control services for automotive warranty management and serve as a model caretaker of our environment.

Project URL: