Virtual Validation

What if you could create a virtual prototype of a product (e.g., ECU), test its functions and make design changes before even creating a physical prototype? This is virtual validation.

Virtual validation is a process used to test and approve the validity of an ECU. This includes simulation of ECU(s) in several environments and conditions to ensure that the ECU works appropriately. Virtual validation makes it possible to design and implement the system before investing significant capital. In other words, virtual-validation reduces costs, time-to-market, and increases the reliability and validity of an ECU.

The use of virtual validation has increased in the automotive industry when automakers are testing new technology in both electric and autonomous vehicles. Through virtual-validation, companies can simulate batteries and electronic control systems, test millions of kilometers of driving and millions of lines of code without having to build a prototype manually. Aviation and defense are examples of other industries that benefits significantly from virtual validation.

The advantages of virtual validation include:

  • PC or Cloud based simulation for validation of virtual ECUs (V-ECUs).
  • No need for specialized hardware for the validation, as it all runs on PCs.
  • Develop and test Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) test-cases without needing access to HIL-hardware (Frontloading).
  • Reuse a PC-based V-ECU in a real-time simulation of the HIL system.
  • Integrate the V-ECU in a function development scenario to interact with already developed functions.

An integrated part of the development process

Virtual validation can frontload parts of the project’s integration testing. Consequently, virtual development can be done in tandem with physical development and increase the coherence between the two.


With the dSPACE toolchain, many options are available for creating a complete validation process. Using SystemDesk, V-ECU(s) are generated, which can subsequently be used with VEOS for PC or Cloud-based simulation and SCALEXIO or MicroAutoBox for real-time simulations.

Virtual ECU (V-ECU)

A virtual ECU (V-ECU) consists of software that represents a real ECU in a simulation. Unlike a soft ECU, which uses only a simplified Simulink®/Stateflow® model, a V-ECU consists of real production code. It consists of code only and does not require any special hardware. In Software-In-the-Loop (SIL) scenarios, V-ECUs are used instead of real ECUs or controller models.

V-ECUs can have different levels of abstraction, depending on what they are used for:

  • V-ECUs at the application level contain selected parts of the application software, the operating system, the RTE and required parts of the basic software typically provided by dSPACE.
  • V-ECUs can also include the application software and parts of the production basic software, such as Dem, NvM, and COM.
  • V-ECUs can include the complete application software and hardware-independent basic software, except modules for the Microcontroller Abstraction Layer (MCAL).

Generating V-ECUs

There are different ways to create a V-ECU, depending on what they are used for, the project needs, and on whether the development is based on AUTOSAR.

Function and software developers who only work with single components can create a V-ECU directly with Simulink or TargetLink. The result is a simple V-ECU with only a specific part of the application layer of the ECU software. It enables basic functional tests.

Software integrators who want to test a more complex network of functions can combine software components, functions or non-AUTOSAR code from different sources in SystemDesk to create the ECU’s software architecture. They can then use the SystemDesk V-ECU Generation Module to create a complete V-ECU. This includes the run-time environment (RTE) and, if needed, basic software in addition to the application layer. The V-ECUs are used for PC or Cloud-based simulation with VEOS.

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