An Empirical Investigation of Using Models During Requirements Engineering in the Automotive Industry
Doctoral thesis, 2018

The automotive industry is undergoing a major transformation from a manufacturing industry towards an industry that relies heavily on software. As one of the main factors for project success, requirements engineering (RE) plays a major role in this transition. Similar to other areas of automotive engineering, the use of models during RE has been suggested to increase productivity and tackle increasing complexity by means of abstraction. Existing modelling frameworks often prescribe a variety of different, formal models for RE, trying to maximise the benefit obtained from model-based engineering (MBE). However, these frameworks are typically based on assumptions from anecdotal evidence and experience, without empirical data supporting these assumptions.
The overall aim of our research is to investigate the potential benefits and drawbacks of using model-based RE in an automotive environment based on empirical evidence. To do so, we present an investigation of the current industrial practice of MBE in the automotive industry, existing challenges in automotive RE, and potential use cases for model-based RE. Furthermore, we explore two use cases for model-based RE, namely the creation of behavioural requirements models for validation and verification purposes and the use of existing trace models to support communication.
We address the aims of this thesis using three empirical strategies: case study, design science and survey. We collected quantitative and qualitative data using interviews as well as questionnaires.
Our results show that using models during automotive RE can be beneficial, if restricted to certain aspects of RE. In particular, models supporting communication and stakeholder interaction are promising. We show that the use of abstract models of behavioural requirements are considered beneficial for system testing purposes, even though they abstract from the detailed functional requirements. Furthermore, we demonstrate that existing data can be understood as a model to uncover dependencies between stakeholders.
Our results question the feasibility to construct and maintain large amounts of formal models for RE. Instead, models during RE should be used for a few, important use cases. Additionally, MBE can be used as a means to understand existing problems in software engineering.

Empirical Research

Automotive Engineering


Requirements Engineering

Software Engineering

Model-Based Engineering

Beta, Saga, Campus Lindholmen, Hörselgången 4
Opponent: Prof. Jon Whittle, Faculty of IT, Monash University, Australia


Grischa Liebel

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

Model-based engineering in the embedded systems domain: an industrial survey on the state-of-practice

Software and Systems Modeling,; Vol. 17(2018)p. 91-113

Journal article

Organisation and Communication Problems in Automotive Requirements Engineering

Requirements Engineering,; Vol. 23(2018)p. 145-167

Journal article

LoCo CoCo: Automatically Constructing Coordination and Communication Networks from Model-Based Systems Engineering Data

Information and Software Technology,; Vol. 92(2017)p. 179-193

Journal article

Liebel, G., Tichy, M., Knauss, E. Use, Potential, and Showstoppers of Models in Automotive Requirements Engineering

Liebel, G., Anjorin, A., Knauss, E., Lorber, F., Tichy, M. Exploring Behavioural Requirements Modelling in the Embedded Industry

Software plays a key role in automobiles. Among others, software helps to prevent accidents, supports the driver, and offers infotainment functions. However, understanding what needs to be build, the so-called requirements, is an essential part for the success of such software functionality. To abstract from the detailed and often complex requirements, the use of formal models has been suggested.
In most engineering disciplines, the use of formal models is everyday practice. For example, electrical engineers build circuit models to understand the properties of an electric circuit. Similarly, architectural engineers construct floor plans to understand the physical layout of a building. However, the use of models in software engineering is limited.
The aim of this research is to investigate how models could be used to help understanding, documenting, and maintaining the required functionality in automotive systems. Using empirical research methods, we investigate the potential benefits and drawbacks of such a model-based approach in the automotive industry.
Our results show that the use of formal models could be beneficial. However, a wide adoption is currently hindered by a number of different obstacles, e.g., limitations in modelling tools and the sheer complexity of constructing such models. Instead, formal models for specialised purposes, e.g., to verify that safety-critical functions work as intended, or informal models, e.g., sketches of intended functionality, can aid engineers to build tomorrow's automobiles.

Subject Categories

Other Computer and Information Science

Software Engineering

Embedded Systems

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4418



Beta, Saga, Campus Lindholmen, Hörselgången 4

Opponent: Prof. Jon Whittle, Faculty of IT, Monash University, Australia

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