PSpice Technology for Automotive Designs

ECU and ECU-to-ECU simulations and system modeling

Today, more and more electronics from air bag sensors to safety and convenience features are being added to cars, revolutionizing automotive safety and electronics.

With new electronic technologies, there’s always a risk something will fail. Simulation of electronic circuits to verify their functionality and reliability based on component tolerances, temperature variations, and other parameters becomes critical. It is crucial for automotive companies to perform yield and reliability analysis through exhaustive simulations to ensure there are no recalls due to field failures.


Meeting Rigorous Automotive Requirements

Electrical systems are controlling more of a vehicle's reliability, performance, and environmental features—from airbags to all-wheel drive, GPS to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and cameras to infotainment systems. Vehicles today are trending to more than 100 ECUs distributed under the hood and in the interior—creating a range of challenges in communication, coordination, power distribution, and other areas.

Common challenges include:

Connectivity Issues

Wiring connectivity issues that force the adoption of “drive-by-wire”

Distribution and hybrid drives

Power distribution and the introduction of hybrid drives, which are propelling miniaturization of very high-power densities in power electronics

Systems Modeling

Automotive embedded systems can be modeled at multiple levels of abstractions, including functional requirements, hardware architecture, and software requirements leading to final implementation

Mixed-signal simulation

The number of sensors in automobiles have been increasing at an exponential level from tire pressure sensors to oxygen level sensors, etc. All of these sensors are mixed-signal sensors with digital control loops requiring the capability of mixed-signal simulations

Virtual prototyping

Faster time to market by verifying the hardware and software integration is tested way in advance before building the hardware

Early software validation

Validating how the complete system will function per specification in software can significantly reduce cost of actually building the hardware and then addressing any field failures and/ or recalls

Single Tool for System Modeling

OrCAD PSpice® Designer provides a single tool for system modeling and performing ECU and ECU-to-ECU simulations. PSpice simulation software can help users verify performance issues, complete risk assessments, and identify integration problems before hardware freeze. Avoid production failures or late-stage design changes with the ability to simulate and evaluate automotive ECU design blocks at any level of abstraction. Based on your speed and accuracy requirements, full system-level analysis can be performed incorporating the complete drive-by-wire design with mixed-signal control loops and software control. With our SPICE circuit simulator, you can:

Minimize Design Cycles

Minimize extra design and prototype cycles

Improve Performance

Improve design quality and performance

Automate Design Tasks

Automate as many of the tasks as possible

Avoid Problems

Avoid problems, from field failures to manufacturing tolerance variations to power dissipations

Perform Advanced Analysis

Perform advanced analysis by incorporating user-defined post-processing algorithms

Key Features

Key features in OrCAD PSpice Designer help you deliver ECUs that meet the rigorous quality and reliability standards of the automotive industry

  • Sensitivity Analysis Tool
    Sensitivity Analysis Tool

    The sensitivity analysis tool tells you which components require tighter tolerance and which do not, helping you reduce costs.

  • Smoke Analysis
    Smoke Analysis

    The smoke analysis feature warns you of stressed components from power dissipation, increases in junction temperature, secondary breakdowns to violations of voltage/current limits, helping you avoid warranty costs by directing your focus to the components that need it the most.

  • PSpice Optimizer
    PSpice Optimizer

    The PSpice Optimizer helps you quickly and accurately tune your circuits so you can easily retarget an existing design to new goals to meet requirements of newer circuits or regional requirements.

  • Model Library
    Model Library

    An extensive library of more than 33,000 models, including simulation-ready analog and mixed-signal devices, mathematical functions, and behavioral models, help you complete your simulation projects faster.

Case Study: TATA Motors


Tata Motors needed to evaluate electronic interfaces for compatibility and robustness against a variety of automotive conditions, including:

  • Noise factors like ground shift, shared grounds, and coupled transients
  • Switches and relays
  • Contact cleaning current
  • De-bounce
  • Voltage transients like device damage, latch-up, and dropout


To avoid and/or resolve error states prior to hardware freeze, Tata Motors used OrCAD PSpice Designer to perform ECU and ECU-to-ECU simulations. Using the tool, the automotive manufacturer performed steady-state analysis, transient analysis, and system/subsystem analyses. The company also simulated several automotive abuse conditions to identify failures:

  • Short to battery
  • Short to ground
  • Jump start
  • Ground shift conditions
  • Reverse battery condition


By using OrCAD PSpice Designer, Tata Motors quickly identified stress on components at different conditions, evaluated power dissipation, and even simulated their ECU subsystem with other automotive electronic subsystems (such as powertrain sensors, radiator fans, and door actuators). The company detected design problems much earlier in the cycle, saving them time and money spent building and debugging ECU boards within system prototypes.

download full tata paper

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