By on November 12, 2010

A GM press release subtitled Engine Control Module Reliably Performs 125 Million Operations a Second reveals that

A 32-bit embedded processor with three megabytes of integrated flash memory gives the 2011 Buick Regal’s Ecotec 2.0L engine microcontroller the quickest throughput, or processing power, in the automotive industry.

For the Regal driver, this means more precise fuel delivery for the best-possible fuel economy, emissions and performance.

Our question: why can’t this processor work in Chevy’s truck marketing?

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21 Comments on “Buick Regal Boasts Industry’s Fastest Processor...”

  • avatar

    Buick Regal Boasts Industry’s Fastest Processor
    A fleeting claim, which won’t help sell one more car.
    If it truly means more precise fuel delivery for the “best possible fuel economy, emissions, and performance”, then why do other 2.0L engines from other mfrs do better in some or all of these categories?

    • 0 avatar

      A fleeting claim, which won’t help sell one more car.
      Are you a former GM executive?

      That’s just the attitude that bankrupted GM.  Why spend the money on the 32bit when you can just keep using the old 16 bit?  Who buys a car based on a processor?  Decision after decision like that goes a long way to explain why GM went bust.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you a former GM executive?

      Of course not.

      But have you ever bought a car because of the processor inside one of its computers?  No – all consumers care about is results.  The Sonata Turbo 2.0L has 274 HP, better fuel economy, better looks, and a better price, and nobody cares how fast its computer calculates.  As I said above, if this magic chip really does the trick for results, great.

      GM went bust – in part – because their products couldn’t deliver results.

    • 0 avatar

      <i> But have you ever bought a car because of the processor inside one of its computers?  No – all consumers care about is results. </i>

      Again, exactly the kind of thinking that bankrupted GM.  All flash no substance – who cares about the stuff you don’t see….?   That’s that’s the way to bankruptcy my friend.

  • avatar

    A 32-bit processor can directly address 4Gb.  (A 16-bit processor can address 64k).  If the control board has 3Gb of flash memory then 32-bit is sufficient.  In the discussion of how many bits for a processor, there are many possibilities, address bus, data bus, instruction set.  Another parameter that influences computing power is processor clock speed (not specified here). There are techniques (register extensions) that can allow a 32-bit processor address more than 4Gb or you can move to a 64-bit processor.
    An engine control is doing a fairly small set of tasks (reading sensor values and issuing commands to actuators) compared to a general purpose computer system interfacing with a human (Windows, OSX) – therefore the engine control can be smaller.

    • 0 avatar

      It actually says 3 megabytes, not gigabytes. Unless the Buick is going to start playing soothing mp3’s to it’s driver I don’t think it’d need anywhere near a gigabyte.
      32 bit processors cost less than a door handle these days. I’m currently building a system to irrigate my lawn that uses a similar configuration to that.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s actually 3mb… But keep in mind those ecu deals with binaries (0 and 1’s code line), not with graphics, os, mp3 or wathever!

    • 0 avatar

      The micro-controller they’re using is an off the shelf part from Freescale Semiconductor. My supplier has it at $37.73 per unit in quantities of 200. It’s actually a really nice little micro-controller.

  • avatar

    For the Regal driver, this means more precise fuel delivery for the best-possible fuel economy, emissions and performance.
    The CXL Turbo has 220hp and gets 18/29 fuel economy.  The GS will make 255hp, and fuel economy is estimated at 19/29 for the manual and 18/28 for the automatic.  I couldn’t find much on emissions.
    Those aren’t terrible numbers, but I don’t know if they are worth bragging about either.

  • avatar

    Sorry about the AWD and 300 hp twin turbo 6… and the mpg’s…
    …but it’s got the fastest processor!

  • avatar

    great they can design chips but have no clue what kind of car a Buick is. big freakin’ wow.

  • avatar

    Hardware specs are meaningless, the proof is in the performance; as others have pointed out, Buick’s power-to-mpg is competitive but hardly class leading.  Besides, I don’t really see how more processing power equates to higher precision, I would think that’s more dependent on advances in sensors, software algorithms, and, I dunno, the equipment that actually delivers fuel.

  • avatar

    Gimme’ vacuum tube processors so I can merrily motor my way through those pesky high-altitude fusion airbursts and their resultants EMPs.

  • avatar

    Our question: why can’t this processor work in Chevy’s truck marketing?
    What a dumb question.  Those Max and Al Ads are great.  Very memorable, honest and to the point.

  • avatar

    Only helps if it can yield 40 mpg or pump out 400hp, other than that even if it can sample the sensors 1 millionths times per sec is not going to change 1 iota.
    Mind as well change the cpu for u every 6 mths like Intel,Celeron does so your car can run smoother.

  • avatar

    What else can Buick brag about, having been upstaged by Hyundai in the turbo-four sedan arena?
    That thing got an Intel?

    • 0 avatar

      Not to mention that GM may have unwittingly started a “computer war” with Hyundai, or some other that could easily beat them in that arena if they wanted to.  GM: “We get our fastest processors from the cheapest supplier. Hope we don’t need to recall them in 4 years.”

  • avatar

    But the big question is – can it get more than 30 FPS in Crysis?

    It is probably cheaper to use the new processor since the 16-bit CPUs are WAYYYY obsolete…Like it is cheaper to buy a 3.5″ floppy drive than a lower-capacity 5.25″ drive.

  • avatar

    Marketing this is stupid on many levels.
    First, 125 million operations per second is, in the realm of processors in general, slug-like.  While there are specific engineering concerns for the microcontroller on an ECU (e.g., heat dissipation) that largely invalidate the comparison, it invites the comparison to desktop processors which handle literally billions of operations per second.
    Second, as a stat, it’s fairly useless and trivial to game.  They advertise this, the next car from any manufacturer suddenly comes out with a faster processor that shows up in their advertising, since none of the car manufacturers are actually designing or fabricating their chips, to make GM look like idiots all they have to do is tell their supplier to give them the next chip up.
    And I could get in to the fact that they’re emitting a press release about technology that they don’t have anything to do with the development.  And that the technology isn’t driven by the auto industry anyway.  And that even still it’s largely a side effect of other processor development anyway.
    So it amounts to GM saying “We paid a couple dollars more for a better piece of silicon.  Buy our cars!”.

    • 0 avatar
      Bonneville2000 (of GM)

      I also initially thought it unbelieveably slow (128 MHz and 3MB, c’mon) and not worthy of a release (not marketing or advertising)but then I started looking into it and thought it very interesting, maybe I’m wrong and maybe it could have been written better or from another angle.  Consider….we know processors make a lot of heat. They are usually well ventilated and have fan cooling and live live in nice, perfect summer-like weather. Now think about your engine controller (the release and information only applies to engine controllers vs. the many other controllers on a modern car) and what it has to live in. Remember, the unit is sealed. Think if you sealed up your CPU. How long it would live? Then think about putting your laptop in your freezer at twice the depth of temp and pressing the start button. Considering this I thought it amazing what this processor did and lives through and in the meantime found out it is state-of-the art in the auto industry therefore thought it worthy of a little more attention. Just something think about. fyi – check out this short video on the topic if you have the chance (go to lower right of page)
      Also, as far as GM having nothing to do with controller development  – while suppliers are important a little known fact is that GM still has hundreds of people involved directly in controller development. This in-house expertise helps speed development and execution. Thanks
      Tom R., GM




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