Buick Regal's 128MHz Processor Can Take the Heat

Paul Lilly

Why would any company boast about a processor clocked at a mere 128MHz? Easy answer -- Buick Regal's new "Viper" 32-bit embedded Engine Control Module (ECM) running at said clockspeed offers up the most processing power in the automotive industry, Buick claims .

Also known as the E39 ECM, this slice of silicon contains 3MB of integrated flash memory and controls all the functions of Buick's Ecotel 2.0L engine, including the operation of turbo, direct injection, and variable valve timing systems. The chip itself is somewhat similar to CPUs on the desktop front, but obviously has been designed specifically for use with engines.

"The ECM's microcontroller executes the commands such as when to inject fuel into the engine's combustion chambers," said Karla Wallace, GM senior manager, global powertrain electronics engineering. "The software executed by the microcontroller comes from almost a million lines of code developed by GM and uses over 300 kilobytes of calibration data."

Wallace goes on to explain that 128MHz and 3MB of flash memory doesn't sound like a lot in terms of computing power, but is nonetheless impressive when you consider the environment they live in.

"Unlike most home entertainment and electronic devices, our controllers are made to operate reliably up to 260 degrees (127C) and down to -40 degrees (-40C) for the life of the vehicle," Wallace said. "On top of this, they are sealed against air, water, dust, and electromagnetic interference. These are parameters that take the Regal's controller to the highest levels of reliability and durability."

Point taken.

Image Credit: Buick

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