Electronic Design

<i> Electronica 2006 UPDATE: </i>26.9.2006 <br> <b> Automotive electronics drives the applications focus at electronica 2006 </b>

The organisers of electronica 2006, Munich Trade Fairs International (MMI), continue to develop the event's focus on key applications areas — this year's event will headline the rapidly growing automotive electronics sector.

electronica automotive presents an Automotive Conference organised to begin the day before electronica opens its doors, as well as a focused exhibition area and a Forum which will be the platform for information exchange.

Europe's automotive market is the second largest in the world, playing an important part in driving the financial health of the region's economy, and many of the cars and trucks designed and manufactured in Europe enjoy significant sales success throughout the rest of the world. But it is the influence that Europe's automotive design community has on the world's car and truck industry that makes the region a leader in global technology applications.

Manufacturers like DaimlerChrysler, Volvo, BMW, Audi and Renault lead the industry in the use of technology to make their vehicles safer, more reliable, and more enjoyable to drive. Along with the car and truck manufacturers themselves, Europe boasts large numbers of design houses working alongside the global automotive industry to develop the vehicles of tomorrow.

A number of major manufacturers of automotive electronic products and systems will participate in the User Forum, and many more will be found throughout the 16 exhibition halls that comprise electronica 2006 (see Figure).

The focus given to applications sectors such as Automotive Electronics continues electronica's drive towards highlighting those areas that will provide the electronics industry with significant growth in the years to come.

Prominent automotive electronics exhibitors at electronica 2006 include Robert Bosch, Cherry, STMicroelectronics, Freescale, Renesas, Infineon, Elmos Semiconductor, Freudenberg Mektec, and Green Hills Software.

The Automotive Conference will present current and future trends in automotive electronics and will commence with a keynote introduction by Prof. Dr. Gunther Hertel, Vice President, Research Technology Management at DaimlerChrysler AG. Other speakers will come from Infineon, Renesas and Delphi. Some of the topics to be discussed are mentioned below.

Safety systems represent one of the major markets in the automotive electronics sector. Automatic systems top the list, with devices such as airbags, passenger restraints, anti-lock brakes, traction, and stability control. Increasingly important today are systems provided to help the driver, including lane-departure warnings, adapative cruise control, blind spot warnings and predictive radars.

The critical electronics technologies in this sector are sensors and microcontrollers, essential for controlling and monitoring performance and safety. Having already pervaded all aspects of the vehicle, sensors and microcontrollers are undergoing radical change. They are the focus of some of the most advanced research worldwide, benefiting from the latest micro/nanotechnology developments including MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) and advanced materials. Visitors should look for a new range of sensor-based automotive applications to emerge, as sensors, capacitors and microcontrollers combine in miniaturised, rugged packages that can be mass produced at low cost.

Meanwhile, the need for error-free software has set specific challenges for embedded-system developers. Green Hills Software, recognised as a leader in RTOS products for safety critical applications, will present its latest embedded-software solutions for automotive products.

Another hot topic, and the subject of major multinational research projects, is Telematics, which has huge growth potential. The ability to transmit data to and from vehicles is becoming increasingly strategic, not only for vehicle diagnostics/prognostics, safety systems, traffic management and driver information systems, but also for integrating external mobile systems, such as cell phones and infotainment devices.

When it comes to moving data around the vehicle, automotive OEMs are eagerly anticipating the impact of the latest data bus technology, FlexRay. Designed to meet the demand for high data rate networks due to increased electronic content, FlexRay is taking the automotive world by storm. FlexRay is already available as semiconductor IP and on Freescale microcontrollers, and has further support from Philips and Siemens. With the support of BMW and DaimlerChrysler — and more recently, Bosch, GM, Ford, Volkswagen and Audi — plus the promise of FlexRay-enabled cars before the end of this year, it is certain to be a successful technology.

Wireless technologies which have successfully established themselves in other markets have been slow to take off in automotive systems. The fear of electrical interference and the need for greater security measures have limited its application. But this is set to change — soon! Leading the breakthrough is Bluetooth, for hands-free mobile phone operation. Swift to follow, and with tremendous development potential, is the area of reliable and secure wireless sensor networks. Already, the early results of research look promising. OEMs and systems companies will be watching closely for showcase products later this year.

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