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20 Years of Diesel Engine Control Design with Detroit Diesel


In the early 90s Detroit Diesel Corporation (DDC) wanted to reinvent their previously successful engine controller, DDEC II, to cope with the increasing demands of more stringent emissions requirements and the increasingly diverse applications resulting from the continuing success of their flagship Series 60 engine.

Pi Innovo was challenged was to deliver a state-of-the-art next generation ECU product and collaborate on the development of Detroit Diesel’s in-house capability to develop subsequent products.


The result was DDEC III, designed and put into production by a partnership between DDC (control and strategy), Pi Innovo (software and safety) and Motorola (hardware).

The DDEC III system was successfully launched into volume production in 1994 for the Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine family, providing for dual-voltage (12 V / 24 V) ECMs. Previous DDC ECMs had been 12 V only. The dual voltage ECMs allowed installation into 24 V marine, industrial, and non-US truck applications. The functions available in the DDEC III system included engine diagnostic messages, fault history record keeping, shutdown timers, progressive shift functions, speed limiting, automatic stall prevention and cruise control functions; most notably the DDEC system provided for an industry-first engine management report, that would record the use of the engine and be able to provide records of trucks over-speeding, excessive idle time, hard braking and other parameters that would assist operators to increase productivity, reduce engine wear and decrease fuel consumption. It also provided extra I/O, an updated communications interface and was significantly cheaper and more reliable due to a more manufacturable hardware design.

For several years after the product launch, Pi Innovo maintained the ECU software directly, before transferring knowledge and responsibility to the newly formed DDC software team. Software design collaboration has continued for successive generations of DDC ECUs with Pi Innovo taking on major projects to migrate to newer hardware platforms, including test software, and to develop factory programming systems. Pi Innovo also provided support for marine applications certification of the DDEC III system (and subsequently for DDEC IV, introduced in 1997).

Collaboration extended to direct involvement in the design, implementation, test and deployment of DDECs popular and widely accepted diagnostic and fleet management tools. Products such as Diagnostic Link®, DDEC® Reports, Data Summaries and Pocket Diagnostic Link® enable DDC to offer cost-effective service and management for single vehicles and complete fleets.  Development of Detroit Diesel’s Windows-based service tool (named Drumroll) was also Pi Innovo-led, with a team of Pi Innovo engineers working alongside DDC’s Service Tool team. The Drumroll tool suite provides services for programming / flashing the DDEC units in the engine assembly plant, engineering-level access to the engine control software for calibration and configuration updates and truck dealer-service support including guided diagnostics features.

In the more recent stages of the program, Pi Innovo’s engineering team developed the EPA2007 and EPA2010 exhaust aftertreatment control strategies for DDEC VI and VII. These ECUs were co-developed with Continental (hardware supplier), Temic (platform software developers) and Mercedes Benz (for control strategies specific to the Euro and US Mercedes Benz engines).

Results and Impact

Well over 500,000 units of the first, highly successful DDEC III product have shipped since it was launched in 1994 on the DDC Series 60 (class 8) truck engines. This ECU and successive generations have proved flexible enough to be used on heavy-duty trucks, stationary engines, locomotives, off-highway vehicles and marine applications, with a proven one million mile durability capability.

The Detroit Diesel Series 60 continues to be the top selling heavy-duty diesel engine, and in 2008, the company built its one millionth Series 60 engine. Over the lifetime of our collaboration up to one in four heavy duty trucks on the road in North America have relied on Pi Innovo ECU software.

The remarkable success has also led to DDEC controllers being licensed for use by companies, such as MTU (Motoren-Turbine Union), to control engines targeted at marine, off-highway and stationary energy systems.

Pi Innovo continues to provide niche project support to DDC to this day.

Project Features

ECU hardware design
Safety-critical control platform software
Diesel engine management strategies
Model-based emission control strategies
Powertrain control strategies