As an integral part of an overall test strategy, hardware-in-the-loop test method enables reproduceable testing of real ECUs embedded within/in a realistic simulation environment. This offers comprehensive testing in the laboratory 24/7, 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 are ranging from component to system integration testing and cover all vehicle domains from autonomous driving to zero emissions.

Key Benefits
  • 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 consutling, engineering, and training
  • Decades of experience with a wide range of customer projects
dSPACE hardware-in-the-loop testing systems addresses all automotive domains with solutions from function test to subsystem test to the virtual complete vehicle.
Solution Offer at a Glance

Solution Offer 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.

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 aims at testing single or 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). If you want to test functions for autonomous driving, the test system must be able to generate sensor data on the object list level. These types of tests are often performed by the function developers themselves. Therefore, the test systems must fit on a developer’s desk.  

ECU Testing Including Perception and Fusion

ECU Testing Including Perception and Fusion

Typical applications for ECU tests range from software integration testing over to fail-safe and fail-operational testing, to ECU release testing. For ADAS and AD ECUs, this can even include perception and fusion algorithms also have to be verified. Testing is therefore highly automated and based on ECU requirements to cover the high number of variants. Scenario-based testing is also useful to address the many test variants, particularly in combination with automatic scenario generation.

Test systems for ECU testing require scalable I/O and bus/network interfaces, restbus simulation on the behavior and protocol level, and extensive manipulation and test options for buses and networks. Scenarios for autonomous driving are often tested using raw sensor data. These tasks require 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 fail-safe and fail-operational tests as well as vehicle network testing, such as sleep or wake-up tests. The systems often run highly automated test programs around the clock, made possible by comprehensive test management systems.

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. To handle complex models and scenarios, they also require strong simulation performance and multiprocessor capabilities.  The systems process a multitude of plant models, from powertrain to air conditioning to window lifter models, to name but a few. To test systems for autonomous driving, sensor signals must be simulated on either the object list or raw data level, depending on the system architecture.  

Components of a Hardware-in-the-Loop System

A typical HIL system for testing ECUs includes at least simulation hardware to connect the ECU to and simulation models for simulating the environment. Additionally, you use configuration software and visualization software for a graphically representation of the simulation scenario.


    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.

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Use Cases

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

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Success Stories

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

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