As an integral part of an overall test strategy, the hardware-in-the-loop test method enables reproducible testing of real ECUs embedded in a realistic simulation environment. This offers 24/7 comprehensive testing in the laboratory, shortens validation times, and increases the range of test scenarios. Additionally, HIL allows for testing of critical corner cases without safety issues for the device-under-test or the environment in closed-loop as well as in open-loop test setups, e.g., data-replay testing. The increasing complexity of highly connected E/E architectures, evolving electric vehicles, and ADAS/AD active safety systems makes HIL testing crucial to ensure the reliability of the overall system. dSPACE HIL solutions range from component to system integration testing and cover all vehicle domains from autonomous driving to zero emissions.

Key Benefits of dSPACE HIL Solutions
  • HIL solutions ranging from component to system integration testing
  • For all vehicle domains including e-mobility and autonomous driving
  • End-to-end tool chain for efficient automated testing
  • Comprehensive offers for consulting, engineering, and training
  • Decades of experience with a wide range of customer projects
dSPACE hardware-in-the-loop testing systems address all automotive domains with solutions from function test to subsystem test to the virtual complete vehicle.

What is HIL Testing?

Hardware-in-the-loop testing means the tests of real ECUs (electronic control units) in a realistic simulated environment. These tests are reproducible and can be automated which leads to 24/7 comprehensive testing in the laboratory, shortens validation times, and increases the range of test scenarios.

Advantages of HIL Testing?

HIL simulation allows for testing of critical corner cases without safety issues for the device-under-test or the environment in closed-loop as well as in open-loop test setups, e.g., data-replay testing.
The increasing complexity of highly connected E/E architectures, evolving electric vehicles, and ADAS/AD active safety systems makes HIL testing crucial to ensure the reliability of the overall system.

HIL simulation means that a real ECU is connected to a HIL simulator, which simulates the complete environment of the ECU, for example the vehicle, the environment as well as other road users.

dSPACE HIL Solution Offers at a Glance

dSPACE HIL Solution Offers at a Glance

  • Scalable real-time platforms
  • Support of latest automotive bus and network standards
  • Comprehensive simulation models for applications ranging from combustion engines to autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles
  • Complete and fully automatable software toolchain to support continuous integration among others
  • High-fidelity solutions for e-mobility applications
  • Realistic camera, lidar, and radar models can be calculated in real time with dSPACE HIL systems.

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Deep Dive  – Test Phases and Test Systems in HIL Simulations

The development of automotive electronic systems can be divided into three main test phases: function testing; ECU testing, including perception and fusion; and ECU domain and network testing. Since each test phase focuses on different goals, the test system requirements differ as well. The dSPACE HIL systems can be adapted to each phase to provide maximum support.

Function Testing

Function Testing

Function testing focuses on testing single or a few functions, including their interaction with ECU basic software. Since this kind of testing is typically an integral part of function development rather than final release testing, its focus lies on experimental usage, without systematic test automation. Hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) test systems for function testing therefore require versatile bus and network interfaces, restbus simulation on the behavior and protocol levels, or design-for-test interfaces (e.g., XCP). These types of tests are often performed by the function developers themselves and must fit on a developer’s desk.

ECU Component Testing

ECU Component Testing

Typical applications for ECU tests range from software integration testing through fail-safe and fail-operational testing, to ECU release testing. Testing is therefore highly automated and based on ECU requirements to cover the high number of variants.

Test systems for ECU testing require scalable I/O and bus/network interfaces including electrical failure simulation. Furthermore, testing of buses and networks requires restbus simulation on the behavior and protocol level as well as extensive manipulation.

Testing of real components requires comprehensive plant models and simulation performance that can be increased accordingly. Ideally, the test system functions can be adapted to changing project requirements.

ECU Domain and Network Testing

ECU Domain and Network Testing

ECU domain and network testing is characterized by end-to-end testing of distributed functions. This includes sleep or wake-up tests as well as fail-safe and fail-operational tests of the vehicle’s ECU network. The need for an extensive range of I/O channels as well as bus and network interfaces is characteristic for these kinds of test systems.

A multitude of plant models must be processed time-synchronously on several clustered real-time systems. To handle complex models and scenarios, strong simulation performance and multiprocessor capabilities are required. 

ECU network testing systems often run highly automated test programs around the clock, made possible by comprehensive test management systems.

Basic Components of a Hardware-in-the-Loop Solution

A typical HIL test system includes different building blocks, like real-time simulation hardware including all relevant interfaces for connecting the ECU as a device under test, accurate simulation models of the environment as well as efficient and easy-to-use software tools for configuration and experimentation. Furthermore, powerful test automation software increases the efficiency through 24/7 validation and test management and collaboration software allows for handling increasing test complexity in ECU development projects. Combining all basic components provides a comprehensive and high-performing HIL testing solution.



    The SCALEXIO LabBox is a compact, modular real-time system for desktop or rack-mount use.

  • SCALEXIO Rack System
    SCALEXIO Rack System

    The SCALEXIO rack system is very flexible due to extensive I/O features. All hardware is software-configurable, making it easy to adapt the system to changing project requirements.

SCALEXIO Customized System
    SCALEXIO Customized System

    The dSPACE SCALEXIO customized system is a highly versatile hardware-in-the-loop simulator that offers a comprehensive range of adaption and configuration options to meet customer-specific requirements.

  • Power HIL Systems
    Power HIL Systems

    Testing electric motor controllers, including power electronics with emulated motors and real currents.

  • Mechatronic Test Benches
    Mechatronic Test Benches

    dSPACE provides highly dynamic turn-key test benches for mechatronic components and systems.

Simulation Models

  • Automotive Simulation Models (ASM)
    Automotive Simulation Models (ASM)

    Tool suite for simulating the engine, vehicle dynamics, electrical system, and traffic environment

  • Sensor Simulation
    Sensor Simulation

    Highly accurate environmental sensor simulation

Experimentation and Visualization

  • ControlDesk

    Universal modular experiment and instrumentation software for electronic control unit (ECU) development

  • ModelDesk

    Graphical user interface for parameterization, management, and simulation


    The dSPACE solution for sensor-realistic simulation offers powerful visualization and physical computation functions for generating synthetic sensor data in virtual test drives.


  • ConfigurationDesk

    Configuration and implementation software for dSPACE real-time hardware

  • Bus Manager
    Bus Manager

    Configuration tool for LIN, CAN, and CAN FD bus simulation

  • dSPACE Ethernet Configuration Package
    dSPACE Ethernet Configuration Package

    With the dSPACE Ethernet Configuration Package, you can configure a dSPACE system as a simulation node in a service-oriented Ethernet network.

  • dSPACE FlexRay Configuration Package
    dSPACE FlexRay Configuration Package

    The dSPACE FlexRay Configuration Package is used to integrate dSPACE hardware as simulation or monitoring nodes in a FlexRay network.

Management and Automation

  • AutomationDesk

    Powerful test authoring and automation tool for HIL testing of ECUs


    Data management and collaboration software with a focus on model-based development and ECU

Want to Know More?


Our videos on HIL testing cover short feature demonstrations, interviews, and detailed technical introductions.

Watch our videos on HIL Testing

Use Cases

Our use cases give an even deeper insight of what you can do with hardware-in-the-loop systems.

Discover our HIL testing use cases

Success Stories

Our customers success stories give you an overview of the wide range of application scenarios dSPACE HIL simulators are being used in.

Read more about HIL success stories

Consulting & Engineering Services

Development support from start to finish

Development support from start to finish

Developing complex E/E systems and software with ever more safety-critical functions, especially in the area of autonomous systems, raises the question of guaranteeing function reliability. That's why dSPACE offers end-to-end expertise in functional safety, test strategy development as well as verification and validation in complex E/E processes - to support you from the earliest project stages to homologation.

dSPACE systems are easy to get up and running – however, if a project is more complex, if individual solutions are needed or if there is high time pressure, you can also trust dSPACE's fast, competent and reliable engineering services.

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