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This paper is going to address the topic of hardware/software systems co-design. The paper will develop two points of view. First, it provides a system-theoretical layout on the problem of designing hardware-software systems. This layout will enable the designer to proceed systematically in optimizing the tradeoff between the desired functionality, available resources and operating conditions. Second, the paper will describe an application of some of the theoretical principles to the design of an embedded automotive system built on a low-cost FPGA.