Electronic Design

Automotive Innovations Drive The Industry

While car makers struggled in 2009, semiconductor and software suppliers rose to the occasion to introduce products that will make the next generation of vehicles even more desirable. In particular, a software system, a pair of dual-core processors, and an overvoltage detection IC emerged as the top releases of the year.

SOFTWARE HITS THE ROAD
As the Ford Motor Company found with its Sync system, infotainment and telematics sell cars. So, new systems and features can quickly provide a needed differentiator for carmakers. The QNX Connected Automotive Reference (CAR) program from QNX Software Systems offers services including on-demand movies, online games, Internet radio, and social networking (Fig. 1).

Using pre-assembled reference designs and a large ecosystem of pre-integrated technologies, QNX CAR enables users to rapidly configure a new vehicle system. The use of proven software components reduces both the design effort and the development risk.

The program includes a connected application platform, sample applications, reference implementations, and a means for delivering software updates and new features to the vehicle. The initial application platform addresses integration with consumer applications such as Bluetooth, music management, and Internet radio. QNX also recently added Google local search, application store, and virtual mechanic technology to QNX CAR.

Google local search dynamically displays a variety of local points of interest (POIs) to drivers and passengers. Application store technology is a first for the automotive market. An in-vehicle human-machine interface (HMI) lets users select and pay for applications, and a back-end server infrastructure delivers the applications through download and installation services.

The virtual mechanic application receives on-board diagnostic (OBD-II) trouble codes from the vehicle’s controller- area network (CAN) bus and displays a message in an interactive car graphic. When an error is detected, the driver can zoom in on a specific area of concern or find the closest service station or dealership by tapping on the display.

TARGETING SAFETY SYSTEMS
Carmakers and their tier one suppliers have major concerns when dealing with a sole-source supplier, especially when it comes to innovative products. The latest output of the STMicroelectronics/Freescale Semiconductor joint development program, which was initiated in February 2006, is one way to address the sole-source issue.

Available as the STMicroelectronics SPC56EL and Freescale MPC564xL, these pin-compatible PowerPC-based dual-core 32-bit MCUs address the safety requirements of the IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASIL-D) standards (Fig. 2). They feature two 600 DMIPS e200 cores with up to 1 Mbyte of flash memory.

The units have an optimized peripheral set for several safety and motor-control uses. Applications include air bags, radar, and lidar, as well as vector-oriented control of up to two brushless three-phase motors in electric power steering, active suspension, and other vehicle electrification requirements.

The use of a single, centralized fault collection and control unit avoids reliance on software measures and the need for an external MCU for system redundancy. The smaller number of external components reduces total system cost. When the safety requirements can be sacrificed for performance, the MCUs can be statically switched from redundant processing and calculations (lockstep mode) to independent core operation (decoupled parallel mode).

HIGH-VOLTAGE MONITORING
vehicles (HEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) as cleaner, more efficient alternatives to petroleum-only vehicles. They’re also looking to lithium-ion battery (Li-ion) technology to provide the answer for energy storage—inexpensively. Maxim Integrated Products says its MAX11080 can reduce the expense of a typical batterymanagement system from $250 to around $50.

Steve LaJeunesse, strategic business manager of automotive and industrial battery products at Maxim, explains the MAX11080’s role in battery management. “It’s a companion part,” he says. “You have a mainline monitor and a redundant monitor. The 11080 is the redundant monitor.”

The mainline monitor, the MAX11068 Li-ion battery-management IC, has not been officially released. Still, the MAX11080 demonstrates where the technology is going in HEV and EV battery management systems. The overvoltage/ undervoltage 12-channel Li-ion fault monitor integrates a proprietary capacitorisolated daisy-chain interface to minimize component count and cost. Isolating one bank of batteries from its neighbor eliminates cascading electrical failures.

Each channel provides a differential monitor for a single cell and compares the results to pin-selectable overvoltage and undervoltage thresholds. If any cell exceeds this threshold for longer than the prescribed delay interval, the MAX11080 does not send a heartbeat signal down the daisy chain.

Operating from 6 to 72 V while withstanding spikes up to 80 V, as many as 31 MAX11080s can be connected in series for up to 372 cells. The unit’s overvoltage detection circuitry guarantees less than ±25-mV error from –40°C to 105°C. To minimize the current drain on the battery system, the IC consumes 80 µA in operating mode and only 2 µA in shutdown (key-off) mode.

Figure 3

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