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In this article, the rapid prototyping technology is used to develop a hardware-in-the-loop simulation system for the diesel engine electronic control unit development. The hardware- in-the-loop simulation is based on Linux RTAI system, an open source hard real-time extension of the Linux Operating System, at low costs and within industrial standards. It exploits standard x86-based computing platforms provided with real-time Linux software in combination with generic computer-aided design software (Matlab/Simulink). One of its main characteristics is that it can automatically generate the real-time simulation code for many target processors, which runs under Linux RTAI operating system.