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IC Solutions Rev Up for Next Gen Auto Designs

MCUs, Analog ICs and More

Automotive electronics are evolving to facilitate the shift from driver assisted vehicle controls to full autonomous driving—but that’s only part of all that’s happening. To meet a variety of design challenges, MCU and analog IC vendors are developing innovative solutions for automotive systems.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

There’s perhaps no more vivid example of the impact of embedded electronics than the continuing advances in automotive technologies. Today, those advances are set within an era of great innovation in the industry as car makers evolve their driver assistance technologies in parallel with their autonomous vehicle solutions, while at the same time improving the performance of full electric and hybrid electric vehicles. On top of all that, car infotainment systems are moving to an entirely new level.

To meet these system design changings automotive IC makers, continue to roll out chip, development system and software solutions aimed at next-gen automotive designs. Over the past 12 months, chip vendors, primarily microcontroller (MCU) and analog IC vendors, have announced a variety of powerful System-on-Chip (SoC), MCU and analog ICs solving all kinds of problems. Leveraging their long histories of serving the automotive market, the leading MCU vendors have taken the lead facilitating driverless car systems with not just chips, but also sophisticated development platform solutions for advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), battery management and other automotive subsystems.

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Flash for Virtualization

Some of the advances in automotive electronics over the past 12 months have revolved around embedded flash solutions aimed directly at automotive system designs. In an example along those lines, in February, Renesas Electronics announced what it claims as the world’s first MCU with embedded flash that integrates a hardware-based virtualization-assisted function while maintaining the fast, real-time performance of the RH850 products.

Figure 1
The RH850/U2A MCU is equipped with up to four 400 MHz CPU cores in a dual core lock-step structure. Each CPU core integrates a hardware-based virtualization-assisted function.

This hardware-based virtualization assist technology can support up to ASIL D level of functional safety, providing greater levels of system integration. The RH850/U2A MCU (Figure 1) is the first member of Renesas’ cross-domain MCUs, a new generation of automotive-control devices, designed to address the growing need to integrate multiple applications into a single chip to realize a unified electronic control units (ECUs) for the evolving electrical-electronic architecture (E/E architecture).

Based on 28 nm process technology, the 32-bit RH850/U2A MCU builds on key functions from Renesas’ RH850/Px Series for chassis control and RH850/Fx Series for body control to deliver improved performance and implement a virtualization-assisted function to support operation in chassis/safety, body, domain control and low-end/mid-range gateway applications. The RH850/U2A MCU is equipped with up to four 400 MHz CPU cores in a dual core lock-step structure. Each CPU core integrates a hardware-based virtualization-assisted function, while maintaining the same fast real-time performance provided by the RH850. To support ASIL D, the MCU includes self-diagnostic SR-BIST (Standby-Resume BIST) functions with minimized current fluctuation rate.

The hardware-based virtualization-assisted function allows multiple software systems with varying ISO 26262 functional safety levels to operate independently without interference during high performance. It also reduces the virtualization overhead to maintain real-time execution. This enables users to integrate multiple ECU functions into a single ECU while maintaining safety, security and real-time operation requirements.
The RH850/U2A MCU is equipped with up to 16 MB of built-in flash ROM and 3.6 MB of SRAM, offering users the flexibility for future function expansion. The MCU includes security functions that support Evita Light up through Evita Full for enhanced protection against cyber-attacks, enabling the device to support safe and rapid Full No-Wait Over-the-Air (OTA) software updates as security requirements evolve.

Fail-Safe Storage

In other automotive flash technology news, in April Cypress Semiconductor announced that automotive supplier DENSO selected Cypress’ Semper fail-safe storage for its next-generation digital automotive cockpit applications with advanced graphics. Based on an embedded Arm Cortex-M0 processing core, the Semper family is purpose-built for automotive environments.

The Cypress Semper family offers high density serial NOR flash memory up to 4 Gb and leverages the company’s proprietary MirrorBit process technology. The family also features EnduraFlex architecture, which achieves greater reliability and endurance. Semper fail-safe storage devices were the first in the industry to achieve the ISO 26262 automotive functional safety standard and are ASIL-B compliant, says Cypress. According to Cypress, the Semper fail-safe storage products exceed automotive quality and functional safety requirements with ASIL-B compliance and are ready for use in ASIL-D systems. Cypress’ 512 Mb, 1 Gb and 2 Gb Semper devices are currently sampling.

Domain Controllers

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For its part, STMicroelectronics (ST) also rolled out a new automotive-focused MCU offering back in February. Called the Stellar automotive MCU family, these devices support next-generation car architectures, which rely on broad “domain controllers” for areas such as the drivetrain, the chassis, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These domain controllers enable the transition toward software- and data-oriented architectures by providing data fusion from connected sensors while reducing harness complexity

Figure 2
The Stellar MCUs feature six Arm Cortex-R52 cores clocked at 400 MHz, 16 MB of Phase-Change Memory (PCM) and 8 MB of RAM, all in a BGA516 package.

Built on a 28 nm FD-SOI process, major applications for Stellar MCUs include smart control for hybrid powertrain, the broad electrification of car systems with on-board chargers, battery-management systems and DC-DC controllers, as well as smart gateways, ADAS and enhanced Vehicle Stability Controls. The MCUs feature six Arm Cortex-R52 cores clocked at 400 MHz, 16 MB of Phase-Change Memory (PCM) and 8 MB of RAM, all in a BGA516 package (Figure 2). Stellar-based control units are currently undergoing road tests with lead customers. …

Read the full article in the August 349 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3207 words; Figure count: 8 Figures.)

Vendor list:

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com
Maxim Integrated | www.maximintegrated.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
Momenta | www.momenta.ai
NXP Semiconductor | www.nxp.com
Renesas Electronics America | www.renesas.com
STMicroelectronics | www.st.com
Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

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Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.


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Circuit Cellar's editorial team comprises professional engineers, technical editors, and digital media specialists. You can reach the Editorial Department at [email protected], @circuitcellar, and facebook.com/circuitcellar