Automotive MDSD – What pickle?

Over at the modeling languages website, Scott Finnie has started a number of posts detailing his point of view on the status of model driven approaches. He concludes his first post with the statement “No wonder we’re in a pickle.”. Reading that, I myself was wondering that I don’t feel in a pickle at all.

Since the comment section of modeling-languages.com has limited formatting for a longish post, I’d like to put forward my 2c here.

Yes, model driven is not as visible and hyped as many other current technologies and, compared to the entire software industry, its percentual usage might not be impressing. But looking at my focus industry, automotive, I think we have come a long way in the last 10 years.

Model-Driven development is an important and accepted part of the automotive engineer’s toolbox. Most of the industry thinks of ML/SL and Ascet when hearing of the MD* terms. But actually there are so many other modeling techniques in use.

Architecture models are one of the strongest trends, not the least driven by the AUTOSAR standard. But even aside (or complementary to) AUTOSAR, the industry is investing in architecture models in UML or DSLs, often in connection with feature modeling and functional modeling. Code is generated from those architectural models, with the implementation being generated from ML/SL, Ascet, state machines or being written manually. Quality of the engineering data is improving noticeably through this approach.

Companies introduce their custom DSLs to model architecture, network communication, test cases, variants and generate a huge set of artefacts from that.  Models and transformations are being used to connect the AUTOSAR domain to the infotainment domain by transformations to/and from Genivi’s Franca, itself being used to generate code for the infotainment platform.

Model Driven approaches are popping up everywhere and a lot has happened in the past few years. One of the key factors for that development, in my point of view, is the availability of low-cost, accessible tooling and I would consider two tools to be most influential in this regard

  • Enterprise Architect made UML modeling available at a reasonable price, opening it up to a much wider market. That made it possible for more projects and individual to build their MDSD approach based on UML and (custom) generators.
  • Xtext made a great framework and tool for domain specific languages available at no cost to companies, projects and enthusiasts. It is always fun and amazing to come into an existing project and find what many teams have already built on Xtext. Xtext itself of course is standing on the shoulder of giants, Eclipse and the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF).

Maybe Eclipse Sirius will be able to do for Graphical DSLs what Xtext has done for textual modeling. 15 years ago I was working for a company that offered UML-modelling and one of the first template-based code generation technologies at a high price. The situation is completely different now – and very enjoyable.