From advanced infotainment systems to driver-assisted vehicle controls, the embedded electronics in today’s new car designs are being tasked to do more and more. To meet these evolving design challenges, IC vendors have rolled out a variety of chip solutions for next-gen automotive designs.
Today’s automotive electronics design is definitely a multi-pronged beast. On one hand, car infotainment systems keep evolving to new levels. Meanwhile, car makers are advancing driver assistance technologies in parallel with their autonomous vehicle solutions. At the same time, they are enhancing the performance and efficiency of full electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
In order to serve those diverse needs, automotive IC makers, continue to roll out chip solutions across a wide variety of types including display controllers, battery management solutions and high-performance processors designed for automotive gateway implementations. Over the past 12 months, the leading microcontroller (MCU) vendors have announced a variety of ICs. That said, many of those new products from MCU vendors over the past 12 months have been non-MCU devices. Everything from power management ICs (PMICs) to automotive display controllers to new car-locking solutions are part of the mix.
ADAS AND GATEWAYS
In many ways, today’s cars have become moving computer networks. As an example, in January Texas Instruments (TI) introduced its new Jacinto 7 processor platform. Built on TI’s decades of automotive systems and functional safety expertise, the new Jacinto processor platform uses enhanced deep learning capabilities and advanced networking to solve design challenges in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automotive gateway applications.
The first two automotive devices in the platform, TDA4VM processors for ADAS and DRA829V processors for gateway systems, include specialized on-chip accelerators to segment and expedite data-intensive tasks, like computer vision and deep learning (Figure 1). Additionally, TDA4VM and DRA829V processors incorporate a functional safety MCU, making it possible for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers to support both ASIL-D safety-critical tasks and convenience features with one chip. Both devices share a single software platform, which alleviates system complexity and cost by enabling developers to reuse their software investment across multiple vehicle domains.
Through in-bound camera, radar and LIDAR data, ADAS technology helps cars see and adapt to the world around them. The influx of information coming into the car underscores the need for processors or systems-on-chips (SoCs) to quickly and efficiently manage multilevel processing in real time, all while operating within the system’s power budget. TI’s new processors execute high-performance ADAS operations using just 5W to 20W of power, eliminating the need for active cooling.
The TDA4VM processor offers on-chip analytics combined with sensor pre-processing, enabling more efficient system performance. This allows OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers to support front camera applications using high-resolution 8MP cameras to see farther and add enhanced features, such as drive assist. Additionally, TDA4VM processors are capable of simultaneously operating four to six 3MP cameras while also fusing other sensing methods such as radar, LIDAR and ultrasonic on one chip. This multilevel capability enables TDA4VM to act as the centralized processor for ADAS and enables the critical features for automated parking, like surround view and image processing for displays, enhancing vehicle perception for 360 degrees of awareness.
The DRA829V processor seamlessly integrates the computing functions required for modern vehicles. As vehicle technology advances, automotive gateways need a flexible processor to manage higher volumes of data and support evolving requirements for autonomy and enhanced connectivity. TI says the DRA829V processor is the first in the industry to incorporate a PCIe switch on-chip in addition to integrating an eight-port gigabit TSN-enabled Ethernet switch for faster high-performance computing functions and communications throughout the car.
GATEWAY DEVELOPMENT KIT
Likewise serving automotive gateway needs, in March STMicroelectronics (ST) launched its Smart Gateway Platform (SGP) that’s designed to serve as a development tool for prototyping automotive smart-gateway and domain-controller applications. The evolution of automotive architectures to include high throughput in-vehicle networking and high data-rate connectivity to the cloud has increased demand for high-performance smart-gateway and domain-controller Electronic Control Units (ECUs), says ST.
ST’s modular Smart-Gateway Platform (SGP) is built on Gbit Ethernet communication between the secure and ASIL-B Telemaco3P microprocessor (MPU) and the ASIL-D SPC58/Chorus MCU. It is designed to provide powerful processing capability to handle firewall functionalities, predictive maintenance, over-the-air (OTA) upgrades and high data-rate communication among different ECUs and to the cloud (Figure 2). While the Chorus MCU provides real-time, low-power and secure in-vehicle connectivity through its multiple CAN-FD interfaces, the Telemaco3P MPU extends gateway computational capabilities by delivering dual Arm Cortex A7 processing power with the Posix OS support. Its embedded Security Module handles OTA updates, firewall, and predictive-maintenance functions.
The SGP reference design features a rich set of in-vehicle network interfaces including multiple Ethernet and CAN ports as well as support for LIN and FlexRay connections. It is deployed with a comprehensive starter package including hardware design files, hardware/software documentation, software utilities (drivers and flashers) and sample applications. The SGP also integrates expansion connections to Wi-Fi and LTE modules for full prototyping of use cases requiring cloud-connectivity simulation. Its modular architecture provides an optimal framework for easy platform scalability in performance, networking and software.
NOR FLASH FOR ADAS
In December last year, Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage (Toshiba) chose Cypress Semiconductor’s Semper NOR Flash for its next-generation Visconti family of automotive ADAS SoCs (Figure 3). Built with an embedded Arm Cortex-M0 processing core, the Semper family is purpose-built for the most demanding automotive environments where high-density and functional safety compliance are required. The Toshiba Visconti ADAS SoC is specifically targeted for major automobile makers working toward Autonomous Driving level 2.
The Cypress Semper NOR Flash family leads the industry in functional safety compliance and was the first flash to be designed specifically to meet the ISO26262 automotive functional safety standard, reaching ASIL-B compliance, says Cypress. Semper NOR Flash also supports automotive temperatures up to +125°C (AEC-Q100 Grade 1) and meets the density and performance requirements for storage in ADAS applications through Autonomous Driving level 5.
ADC FOR ADAS
Also feeding the needs of ADAS designs, in February Renesas Electronics and Hitachi announced a technology collaboration to enable continuous-time digital calibration of a delta-sigma modulator and an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) circuit. In recent years, as ADAS and self-driving vehicles come closer to becoming a reality, there has been an increasing need for automobiles to incorporate a variety of sensors, such as millimeter wave radar, LiDAR and ultrasonic wave sensors, says Renesas. These are needed to detect objects and people, and to provide an awareness of the vehicle’s surroundings. ADCs used to convert analog signals from such sensors into digital signals must operate at a high speed and with high precision. However, the harsh conditions specific to automotive vehicles have made obtaining stable performance a challenge.
In response, Renesas and Hitachi developed the new continuous-time digital calibration technology to make high-speed, high-precision delta sigma ADCs capable of withstanding punishing conditions a reality. Designed to boost the performance of delta-sigma ADCs for stable performance under the harsh conditions required for automotive semiconductor devices, the new technology comprises enhanced precision by using a least mean square (LMS) algorithm to measure and calibrate the transfer function of a continuous-time delta-sigma modulator (Figure 4). The technology uses what Renesas claims is world’s first multi-rate LMS search algorithm, which lowers the order and operating frequency of the coefficient search circuit and FIR digital filter to reduce power consumption. A 28nm process was used to implement a multi-stage delta-sigma ADC employing sequential integrators operating at high speed.
Previously, digital calibration circuits were required to operate at an oversampling frequency of ADCs, but the new circuit reduces the operating frequency to one-fourth the previous frequency. As a result, high-speed, high-precision operation with a signal bandwidth of 15MHz and dynamic range of 74.3dB is achieved when operating at an oversampling frequency of 480MHz. By reducing the digital calibration circuit operating frequency to 120MHz, low-power operation is also achieved, with 37mW power consumption (analog:19mW, digital:18mW). In addition, the new technology has been confirmed to provide stable performance over a wide temperature range, proving that it is highly robust and capable of stable operation under harsh conditions.
Innovation also continues in the arena of car locking systems. Along those lines, in May ST rolled out its L99UDL01 automotive universal door-lock IC. The device integrates six MOSFET half-bridge outputs and two half-bridge gate drivers with protection and diagnostic functions that enhance safety, simplify design and save space (Figure 5). As a complete centralized solution for electronically driving car locks from a body-control module (BCM), the L99UDL01 replaces multiple individual motor drivers and associated analog and passive components, while providing more sophisticated functionality.
The IC integrates a unique safety feature that overrides normal operation in the event of an accident to help ensure that first responders will have access to the vehicle. Adding further value are PWM output-current regulation and high-level diagnostics capable of detecting over current, open load, short to battery and short to ground. The load-integrity checks can be completed without actuating the load.
The six integrated MOSFET half bridges can be connected independently or as two channels containing up to three half bridges in parallel to share higher-current loads. The output MOSFETs are fully protected and have low RDS(ON) to boost energy efficiency and ease thermal management. Key parameters are adjustable to ensure optimal performance, including the on-time duration, off-state fault detection and output-current magnitude and direction. The programmable current limit lets designers lower stress on door-lock motors to enhance reliability.
The two half-bridge gate drivers enhance flexibility by allowing designers to connect their choice of N-channel MOSFETs or Smart Power devices to control additional high-powered loads. The drivers incorporate active recirculation that minimizes power dissipation. Protection for the external power devices is also built in, including drain-source current monitoring and off-state fault detection. In addition, the L99UDL01 has two power-saving modes including a 50µA standby mode ready for re-activation by an SPI command from the BCM and sleep mode that reduces current to below 15µA. The L99UDL01 is in production now and packaged in a 10mm × 10mm TQFP64.
EV BATTERY MANAGEMENT
Electric vehicles (EVs) have some unique design requirements when it comes to battery management. With that in mind, in June Infineon Technologies expanded its product offering for battery management systems (BMSs) with a new sensing and balancing IC, the TLE9012AQU (Figure 6). The device is especially designed for batteries in hybrid and electric cars, but it is also suitable for other applications. It measures the voltage in up to 12 battery cells with an accuracy of ±5.8mV over the entire temperature and voltage range as well as the operating life cycle. Furthermore, it supports up to five external temperature sensors, provides an integrated cell balancing function and uses an iso-UART interface for communication.
BMSs ensure that the capacity of a battery is optimally utilized—that the longest possible range is achieved in an electric car, and that the battery does not age prematurely. In addition, they determine the battery’s state of charge and state of health in order to estimate the available range and remaining service life. The TLE9012AQU provides the necessary measurement data and ensures a balanced state of charge through cell balancing. Among other things, this prevents the weakest cell from determining the total usable capacity of the battery.
Cell balancing is achieved via 12 balancing switches integrated on the chip—one per channel. They are designed for currents up to 150mA. For higher balancing currents, the device also supports external switches. In addition, the cell balancing can be programmed to stop without a signal from the MCU after a defined time of up to 32 hours or when the cell has reached a defined voltage. This allows the MCU to switch to sleep mode and thus save energy.
With its 12 channels, the TLE9012AQU is particularly suitable for batteries that are partitioned with 12 cells per module. One device is then required per module. The iso-UART interface for data exchange between these modules and with the MCU allows easy voltage isolation and ensures data integrity. The communication supports more than 20 serially connected devices and a ring topology. This ensures that even if a single device fails, the communication chain is not broken and the rest of the system remains functional. In addition to the TLE9012AQU, Infineon is launching a matching iso-UART transceiver component (TLE9015QU).
While Bluetooth technology is far from new in automobiles, new use cases for it in cars continue to expand. Feeding such needs, in May NXP Semiconductors announced the availability of new devices within its KW3x family of MCUs. The new KW39/38/37 MCUs add Bluetooth 5.0 long-range capabilities and expanded Bluetooth advertising channels (Figure 7). These enhancements are made with seamless compatibility with the previous generation of devices, KW34/35/36. The connectivity MCUs allow Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices to communicate at distances of more than a mile and increase the amount of Bluetooth advertising channels and advertising data within the Bluetooth standard, the predominant IoT protocol. The new wireless MCU solutions allow developers to address emerging use cases within automotive and industrial digitization, says NXP.
The KW39/38/37 wireless MCUs are designed with automotive and industry-grade hardware and software, along with robust serial communications with CAN-FD peripherals. The new devices are well suited for automotive applications, such as keyless entry, sensors and wireless onboard diagnostic functions. Additionally, they enable industrial applications such as building control and monitoring, fire and safety, home and institutional healthcare, asset management and monitoring and a range of other industrial use cases.
The KW39/38/37 family features extreme RX sensitivity to allow for the long-range BLE connections. The new devices achieve -105dBM RX sensitivity with LE-coded 125kbps data rate, for example, allowing for connections in harsh environments and at extended distances. In addition, the radio conveniently supports up to eight simultaneous secure connections in any master/slave combination, allowing multiple authorized users to communicate with the device. The MCU’s data stream buffer allows the capture of radio parameters without stalling processor or DMA operations, enabling high-accuracy measurements needed for distance and angle approximations.
NXP’s MCUXpresso tool suite features a certified BLE software stack with application programming interface calls. The new KW39/38/37 MCUs extend the previous generation of devices with hardware and software compatibilities for faster design cycles. In addition, the KW38 MCU integrated FlexCAN, enables seamless integration into an industrial CAN communication network or an automobile’s in-vehicles network.
The FlexCAN module can support CAN’s flexible data rate (CAN-FD) for increased bandwidth and lower latency. The KW39/38/37 devices are available now from NXP and its distribution partners.
PMIC FOR CAR DISPLAYS
As automotive system developers add more sophisticated display features, they don’t want to keep using up more electronics space and power. With that in mind, Maxim Integrated in January announced the MAX16923 4-output display power IC with watchdog timer (Figure 8). By replacing four or five discrete ICs with a single power management solution, the MAX16923 PMIC significantly shrinks solution size and makes it easier for automotive designers to increase the number of displays from two to five per vehicle or even more.
According to Maxim, the number of automotive displays per vehicle continues to grow as OEMs seek to make cars more attractive with advanced instrument clusters, infotainment, heads-up displays, center displays, rear-seat entertainment and smart mirror applications. Designers struggle with the complexity of adding these screens because the required power supply circuitry competes for space with a myriad of other electronic systems inside the car, says the company.
The MAX16923 offers high integration with four power rails, featuring both a high-voltage and low-voltage buck converter, a high-voltage and low-voltage low-dropout (LDO) regulator, electromagnetic interference (EMI) mitigation and a watchdog timer in a single IC. Its high level of integration can reduce an automotive power solution from four or five ICs down to one chip, without making the temperature rise significantly. This also helps ease design complexity and reduces the power solution size up to 50% compared to the closest competitive solution, says Maxim. Additionally, EMI mitigation and the watchdog timer improve reliability of each display.
PMIC FOR CAR CAMERAS
Automotive cameras have evolved into key subsystems for driving safety. With that in mind, in January Renesas announced the ISL78083, a highly integrated PMIC that simplifies power supply design for use in multiple HD camera modules, reducing development cycles, bill of materials (BOM) cost and supply chain risks. The automotive camera PMIC accepts direct-from-battery (36-42V) or power-over-coax (15-18V) supply sources and supports output currents up to 750mA per output. This power level offers ample headroom for existing image sensors up to 7-Mpixel and future sensors with even higher resolution.
The feature-rich 4-channel ISL78083 automotive camera PMIC includes a primary high-voltage synchronous buck regulator, two secondary low-voltage synchronous buck regulators and a low-dropout (LDO) voltage regulator (Figure 9). With integrated feedback and integrated compensation, all that is left to complete the high efficiency power supply is the output inductor and capacitors.
The ISL78083 minimizes BOM cost, requiring 7-10 less external components compared to competing solutions. The ISL78083 also features four overvoltage (OV) and four undervoltage (UV) monitors, three power-good indicators and a reset output/fault indicator. A second reference is supplied for the OV/UV monitors. Mass production quantities of the ISL78083 automotive camera PMIC are available now in a 4mm × 4mm, 24-lead SCQFN wettable flank package.
Also serving the display portion of automotive designs, in June Microchip Technology expanded its maXTouch portfolio with the new MXT288UD touch controller family. The company claims them as the industry’s smallest automotive grade packaged touchscreen controllers. The MXT288UD-AM and the MXT144UD-AM devices provide low power mode, weatherproof operation and glove touch detection in multi-function displays, touch pad and smart surfaces for vehicles, motorcycles, e-bikes and car-sharing services (Figure 10).
Secondary touch surfaces can be placed in both the interior of cars and exterior of a motor vehicle, such as handlebars, doors, electronic mirrors, control knobs, the steering wheel, between seats or in an armrest, says Microchip. With the MXT288UD family’s small 7mm × 7mm automotive grade VQFN56 package, Tier 1 suppliers can now reduce board space by 75% and greatly minimize the overall BOM for these compact applications. The family’s low power wait-for-touch mode consumes less than 50µA, remaining responsive for the user, even if the display switches off to save power or to avoid disturbing the driver at night. The system will wake by a touch event anywhere on the touch surface.
In addition, the MXT288UD-AM and the MXT144UD-AM devices enable detection and tracking of multi-finger thick gloves through a wide variety of overlay materials and thicknesses, like leather, wood or across uneven surfaces—even in the presence of moisture. Normally the dielectric constant of these overlay materials would limit the detection of the touch, however these devices provide a unique solution to reliably detect and track multi fingers with a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and through a proprietary differential mutual acquisition scheme. For example, in car sharing applications, this reliable touch functionality helps users access a car from the outside by tracking touch coordinates on an exterior display in any environment, like rain, snow or extreme heat.
The MXT288UD family provides proven firmware, developed according to Automotive SPICE processes and is AEC-Q100 qualified. Software tools include maXTouch Studio and a maXTouch analyzer. For the MXT288UD, the hardware offered includes an evaluation kit with a PCB and a 5″ capacitive touch panel, while the MXT144UD’s evaluation kit includes a PCB and a 2.9″ capacitive touch pad. For both devices, a bridge PCB is included with a USB connection for interfacing to a computer when running maXTouch Studio.
DISPLAY BRIDGE IC
For its part, Toshiba in June added the TC9594XBG and the TC9595XBG as new interface bridge ICs for automotive In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems, to its lineup of display interface bridge ICs (Figure 11). Automotive IVI systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated says Toshiba. As the number of displays they incorporate grows, so too do panel choices, moving beyond the widely used LVDS display. However, this can present a problem for current systems that do not support the interfaces of new display panels, including DSISM and eDP. The solution is found in interface bridge ICs.
When developing these products, Toshiba says it has leveraged expertise gained from crafting ICs supporting MIPI interface for consumer applications. It has now added the several features to its lineup for automotive applications. This solves interface difference problems in automotive systems and supports customers working on system designs.
For the TC9594XBG, a parallel to MIPI DSI bridge IC, these features include a 24-bit at 166MHz parallel input, a MIPI DSI output with 4x lanes x 1 channel, WUXGA 1920 x1200, 24-bit resolution and an operating temperature of – 40°C to 105°C. Meanwhile, the TC9595XBG, MIPI DSI /DPISM to DisplayPort bridge IC features include a 24-bit at 166MHz parallel input, a MIPI DSI output with 4x lanes x1 channel, WUXGA 1920×1200, 24-bit resolution and an operating temperature of -40°C to 85°C. Both chips are housed in VFBGA80 packages measuring 7mm × 7mm with 0.65mm pitch.
For detailed article references and additional resources go to:
Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com
Infineon Technologies | www.infineon.com
Maxim Integrated | www.maximintegrated.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
NXP Semiconductor | www.nxp.com
Renesas Electronics America | www.renesas.com
STMicroelectronics | www.st.com
Texas Instruments | www.ti.com
Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage | www.toshiba.semicon-storage.com
PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • AUGUST 2020 #361 – Get a PDF of the issueSponsor this Article
Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxGizmos.com and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.