Originally, "Convergence" referred to the introduction of electronics into the mechanical systems in cars. And that trend continues to grow, particularly with drive-by-wire technologies on the horizon.
At Convergence 2006, Siemens VDO's booth featured the electronic wedge brake (EWB), a low power/low energy 12-volt by-wire braking technology. During braking, a brake pad attached to a wedge is pressed between the brake caliper and the brake disk. As the wheel turns, the "wedge" effect is automatically intensified.
A big focus at Convergence this year was the integration of communications and information systems into the car. On the infotainment front, Siemens VDO showed systems that tied in cell phones and other mobile devices to the car's head unit and controls, tying in to the phone's GPS processing and other features such as address book and RSS news feeds. The Entertainment Radio also features a 30 GB hard disk to allow copying of encoded songs and eventually to record songs from the digital radio.
NXP Semiconductors announced the Nexperia PNX9520 processor allowing designers flexibility in new combinations of audio and video for the vehicle. The processor is optimized to allow software-based implementation of the latest audio and video codecs as they become available.
Ever more data at faster speeds is accelerating the adoption of the FlexRay in-vehicle communications standard. Exhibitors touted new FlexRay products, and the buzz at the show was BMW's 7 series as the first car incorporating the standard. With the mountains of new code written to support new electronics, there is continued promise for AUTOSAR, a consortium working to standardize automotive software, though consensus seems to be that standards are still a couple of years away.
NEC's booth included a steering and braking demonstration based on FlexRay technology, as well as a networking demonstration based on Wireless USB. The company also showcased its IMAPCAR image processor for use in safety and collision prevention via a mini self-navigating demonstration car.
Freescale introduced a dual-core, 32-bit MCU family, the MPC5510 line, targeted at automotive body applications. The MPC5510 family offers low-power modes and is designed to support multiple communications protocols including FlexRay, CAN and LIN. The family scales from single-core MCUs to 80-MHz dual-core devices. Freescale also announced the MPC5561 MCU, optimized for sensor-based collision-avoidance systems. The MPC5561 is designed to support a wide array of sensor-based automotive safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, backup warning, occupant detection and active lighting systems which require single-chip MCUs with high levels of integration.
Fujitsu Microelectronics introduced a new FlexRay controller, the MB91F465X, designed for driver assistance applications. The MCU is built around a high-speed 32-bit CPU and offers a clock speed of 100 MHz and voltage range of 3.0 V to 5.5 V. The company's "FlexRay Made Easy" integrates hardware, software and support tools to deliver complete FlexRay solutions. Fujitsu also showed three new ICs in its MB91460 series: two for auto body control and a third for on-board entertainment and information systems.
High performance, reliability and low power remain perennial design challenges in automotive. Seeing opportunity in those challenges, Intersil was at Convergence with a new automotive business unit. Intersil positioned its LVDS technology, which reduces cabling by using serializing and deserializing parallel signals, as ideal for video signal distribution throughout the vehicle.
Also addressing power concerns, Fairchild Semiconductor showed an expanded portfolio of AEC-Q101-qualified 30-V and 40-V MOSFETS. The low-voltage MOSFETs are designed to optimize efficiency in automotive applications such as power steering and integrated starters/alternators, as well as in motor- and solenoid-driver designs. Fairchild says that low on-resistance means higher efficiency due to lower power losses and less heat generation in automotive design.