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This article is about controls for motor vehicles. For other uses, see control unit (disambiguation).
An ECU from a Geo Storm.

In automotive electronics, electronic control unit (ECU) is a generic term for any embedded system that controls one or more of the electrical system or subsystems in a motor vehicle.

Types of ECU include Electronic/engine Control Module (ECM), Powertrain Control Module (PCM), Transmission Control Module (TCM), Brake Control Module (BCM or EBCM), Central Control Module (CCM), Central Timing Module (CTM), General Electronic Module (GEM), Body Control Module (BCM), Suspension Control Module (SCM), control unit, or control module. Taken together, these systems are sometimes referred to as the car's computer. (Technically there is no single computer but multiple ones.) Sometimes one assembly incorporates several of the individual control modules (PCM is often both engine and transmission)[1]

Some modern motor vehicles have up to 80 ECUs. Embedded software in ECUs continue to increase in line count, complexity, and sophistication.[2] Managing the increasing complexity and number of ECUs in a vehicle has become a key challenge for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Key elements of an ECU[edit]

  • Core
  • Memory
  • Inputs
    • Supply Voltage
    • Digital inputs
    • Analog inputs
  • Outputs
    • Relay drivers
    • H bridge drivers
    • Injector drivers
    • Logic outputs
  • Communication links
    • Housing

Design and development[edit]

The development of an ECU involves both hardware and software required to perform the functions expected from that particular module. Automotive ECU's are being developed following the V-model.[1] Recently the trend is to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to develop safe modules by following standards like ISO 26262.[3] It is rare that a module is developed fully from scratch. The design is generally iterative and improvements are made to both the hardware and software. The development of most ECU's are carried out by Tier 1 suppliers based on specifications provided by the OEM.

Testing and validation[edit]

As part of the development cycle, manufacturers perform detailed FMEAs and other failure analyses to catch failure modes that can lead to unsafe conditions or driver annoyance. Extensive testing and validation activities are carried out as part of the Production part approval process to gain confidence of the hardware and software. On-board diagnostics or OBD help provide specific data related to which system or component failed or caused a failure during run time and help perform repairs.


  1. ^ a b National Instruments White Paper on Electronic Control Units
  2. ^ Ebert, Christof; Jones, Capers (2009-04-01). "Embedded Software: Facts, Figures, and Future". IEEE Computer Society Press. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  3. ^ Case, Lenny (October 2011). "Fast-tracking ECU development". Automotive Industries. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_control_unit — Please support Wikipedia.
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1991 news items

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:33:45 -0700

For international and China market analysis, the report analyzes Electronic Control Unit markets in China and other countries or regions (such as US, Europe, Japan, etc) by presenting research on global products of different types and applications, ...
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 08:56:15 -0700

For technical data and manufacturing plants analysis, the report analyzes Electronic Control Unit leading suppliers on capacity, commercial production date, manufacturing plants distribution, R&D status, technology sources, and raw materials sources.

Gas 2.0

Gas 2.0
Fri, 24 Apr 2015 02:56:15 -0700

The spokesman goes on to say, “Proponents have failed to prove that vehicle owners are owners of copies of Electronic Control Unit (“ECU”) firmware within the meaning of 17 U.S.C. § 117.” That means we are merely licensees of the software in our cars.
Digital Journal
Tue, 31 Mar 2015 05:00:00 -0700

Marlton, NJ -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/31/2015 -- These days, an electronic control unit (ECU) acts like the "brains" of an automobile. A few of the things it can control include a vehicle's power seats, airbags, locks and windows. Additionally, it can ...

Cambridge Wireless (press release)

Cambridge Wireless (press release)
Fri, 24 Apr 2015 03:52:30 -0700

“In part of the workshop participants will work on the design of a generic, safety-related Electronic Control Unit (ECU) for use in a road vehicle. The example will be developed in compliance with ISO 26262 and will involve the use of ASIL ...


Sat, 18 Apr 2015 12:07:30 -0700

Under the plan, TUMOSAN also will design and develop a transmission for the Turkish tank and produce critical parts for its engine, including the diesel pump, electronic control unit and injector. TUMOSAN said it aims to conclude the program within 54 ...
Satellite PR News (press release)
Tue, 21 Apr 2015 06:23:35 -0700

AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) is a fast-growing global standard for Electronic Control Unit (ECU) design and the announced implementation by AISIN will help to unify the manufacturer's software development infrastructure across ...
Sun, 19 Apr 2015 13:15:00 -0700

"After the warm-up in the garage before the grid, we had some fluctuating data on the electronic control unit and we finally decided we cannot race." Fernando Alonso finished 11th in the race, matching McLaren's best result of the season, with both ...

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