• Nov 12, 2010
2011 Buick Regal – Click above for high-res image gallery

RegalGeneral Motors is boasting that the new microcontroller in the ECM behind the Ecotec 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in the 2011 Buick Regal is the ultimate power in the automotive universe. According to the company, the computer packs the quickest processing power of any microcontroller in any vehicle on the market right now. The ECU uses three megabytes of flash memory to handle a host of adjustments for things like air intake and "spark optimization." The tech plays a big part in the amount of horsepower and fuel economy that GM has managed to squeeze out of the tiny 2.0-liter.

All told, the ECM is good for 125 million operations per second. Compare that to the 1 million operations per second of the company's first powertrain control module, and you can see just how far on board computers have come since the 1980s. Of courses, given how quickly technology advances, something tells us the Regal's brain won't hold onto its title for long. Hit the jump for the press release.

Photos copyright ©2010 John Neff / AOL

[Source: General Motors]
Show full PR text
Buick Regal Engine Brainpower is Industry's Quickest
Engine Control Module Reliably Performs 125 Million Operations a Second


PONTIAC, Mich. – 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.

This is accomplished through an increased number of intake air adjustments and spark optimization during every combustion event, even when running at maximum engine speed of 6,350 rpm.

The turbo Regal's microcontroller is part of the Engine Control Module (ECM), which controls all the functions of an engine including the operation of the 2.0L's turbo, direct injection and variable valve timing systems. The microcontroller has some similarities with the central processor unit (CPU) in a home computer but is optimized specially for engine control.

"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."

In the 1980s, GM's first powertrain control module had four kilobytes of memory and executed 1 million operations per second. Today, General Motors' electronic control modules perform more than 125 million operations per second with unmatched reliability. The Regal's modern engine controller is tested under extreme conditions for longevity and functionality.

"Three meg of flash memory and 128 MHz clock speed doesn't sound like a lot in terms of computing power until you consider the environment these controllers have to live in," said Wallace.

"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," she 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."

Said Ray Cornyn, director of automotive microcontrollers at Freescale Semiconductor: "We worked with GM to provide the most powerful microcontroller currently in production. The Qorivva MPC5566 chip addresses the needs for precise control of engine events."

Since being introduced in GM powertrains in the late 1970s, the scope of engine electronic controls has continually increased and now extends to significant interaction with the entire vehicle. There are 12 controllers interacting with the ECM on the 2011 Buick Regal including transmission, body, climate, and brake controllers.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Pity they didn't put some of that power into the engine output. At 220 HP, the top Buick Regal is a limp--wristed base Opel clone...no V6, no 325 HP, and Buick is so ashamed of it they describe it, in their ads as a "sport-injected engine"...no mention of the fact that it lacks two cylinders and 100+ HP over the one they sell overseas.

      The Buick Regal also costs close to $32K, fully equipped, which puts it waay up among much better cars, both in size, power, and luxury. Sort of makes a statement as to the preferences of the Chinese, that they expect this to be a big seller, over there. Sadly, it's unlikely to sell much here, thus hastening the end of Buick as an American brand.

      So what was the last GM car which was actually exciting, and class-leading, and was not called a Cadillac CTS? That would be the 1956 Corvette.

      Incidently, you can buy a Ford Fusion, with similar mpg, equivalent interior and an optional V6 with forty more horsepower, for less than the Buick...and get it with AWD, if you want, or as a hybrid.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Too bad no one will buy it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well...at least something on this car is fast... It is a nice looking car and I'm sure of good build quality but I'm still kinda suprised that it is so....slow.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's the GNX of processors then?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yeah, but where is the Gran Sport....or the GNX. Put a turbo V-6 Direct Injection with a 6 speed dual clutch auto....then we will talk.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Most ECU's use 32-bit microprocessors, which are common and cheap as dirt, and have existed for almost 30 years now. They're powerful, simple and reliable enough to process the necessary engine data stored within the ECU.

      It's the same story with NASA's space vehicles and the Air Force's fighter jets.

      Of course, 3 MB of flash memory is extremely small by today's standards, but that's because the ECU doesn't need a lot of memory to store the code necessary to run a car engine's parameters. It's the KISS theory, basically.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You have no idea what you're talking about 3MB is a pile of flash by today's standard for embedded flash memory. All the systems you're comparing it to don't use embedded flash memory. Embedded here meaning that the flash memory is on the same die as the CPU core.

        I'm not sure I'd be bragging out this if I were GM. Code inefficiency is nothing to brag about. Most MCU's in current vehicles (of which there are piles) have between 128k and 1MB on die.

        It's also by no means the most power MCU found in a car. GM has a far more powerful processor driving the 7" LCD display in the Volt's cluster (as are most processors that drive displays). Of course that processor doesn't have any embedded flash memory, so it's not apples to apples, but GM didn't exactly get too specific.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Maybe they can work bragging rights into an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Nerds rejoice!! "My car's computer is...125 times faster than yours!!" Otherwise...do I care? Oh sexy Buick Regal...do I care? No...because it does not make you faster. In real time.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If any ones cares, Here is some basic info about the CPU in this system.

      To the frequency and Flash complainers, Automotive temps and reliability requirements have severe impacts on silicon results. Try running your flash drives or other cpus at 127C for long periods of time, they won't last.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Where are the LED's, Where is the V6, where is the AWD? Buick dropped the boll on regal. Those headlights for one, you can get better on a Sonata or an Elantra.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So, go buy your cheap-ass, flimsy as hell, craptastic Sonata. Buicks Regals from 1997 are still on the highways of America in great numbers and most of them are in EXCELLENT condition. Most Sonatas from that year (my brother HAD one) as is my '97 Mazda 626, are being sold for parts in junkyards all across America.

        While the specs. of the Regal and Sonata may be similar, the Regal is the better buy by a mile, especially if you're planning on keeping the thing.

        In a year or two the Salvador Dali "melting clock" theme of the Sonata will be tired, the classic style of the Regal will still be in a word, regal.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Okay, first of all, you can discard anything about Hyundai Elantra vs Buick Regal

        And second, Why are you comparing Regal to Sonata? I mean, I like Hyundai Sonata and all, I think its an outstanding vehicle in ITS class, but Regal and Sonata just isn't meant to be compared to each other. I mean, I'm sure top trim Sonata will be equal or better to the Base Regal in interior quality and whatnot, and sure Engine specs and whatnot are similar, but it doesn't mean its a similar or better car. V6 Ford Fusion =/= Mercedes C Class.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Did they find the weevil?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dr. you had me about +* you, but your love affair with the Regal is also misguided. So, you got a -*, along with the original poster. The Sonata sucks. And this is pretty much mid-pack.
        • 4 Years Ago
        To Mr. Mbuku Kanyau Something or another.

        You my fellow Autoblogger, are of the idiot kind. I highly suggest you remove your shoes and make yourself acquainted to the troll room. Thank you so very much.

        With great disregard,

        • 4 Years Ago
        "And second, Why are you comparing Regal to Sonata?"

        The Insignia IS in the same class as the upcoming Sonata-based i40 in Europe. And this emphasises my point - the Regal is nothing more than a repmobile with some extra chrome, some extra wires, and an inflated price tag for another market. A good car, but a bit of a con.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Who cares about that, what is more important is....

        can it run Crysis?
      • 4 Years Ago
      unfortunately processing power doesn't translate into horsepower.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Remembering the days of the Buick T-Types and Grand Nationals, it gets very disappointing when I see headlines about new Buick turbo engines and how they're going after a younger market. I know GM doesn't want overlap with Buick and Cadillac, but with Pontiac gone it now falls upon Buick to compete with the Dogde Charger SRT8s of the world.
      • 4 Years Ago

      Technological improvement for the sake of control.

      Faster processors and more memory, so that OwnStar built-in surveillance, and EDR recorders can store information that might be used against the owner in a court of law.

      Thanks. But just having tech specs aren't a sales point. What the tech is used for, for the advantage of the car's owner/driver is what counts.

      And cloaking big brother with owner-feature frills, is still big brother, none-the-less. The systems are still largely unaccountable and unknown as to how much privacy is lost, and what data is sent where and used how...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Real cars don't need no stinkin' computer.
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