Electronic Design

Less Complexity And Cost Push Feature-Driven Auto Technology

The automotive industry faces the ongoing challenge of providing continuous system improvements to reduce complexity and costs while adding increased value, quality, and manufacturability. High-growth areas like automotive entertainment systems and tire-pressure monitoring systems, as well as mature systems such as in-vehicle networks, are receiving design attention.

The entertainment system is increasingly becoming the focal point in cars. Added value comes from digital broadcast reception and greater functionality via features like hands-free phone operation and tire-pressure monitoring data projection. As part of the entertainment system, the car radio is undergoing a number of changes:

  • The broadcast receiver section is going digital. Software approaches/techniques will reduce parts count and improve sound quality under challenging signal conditions.
  • New receivers will accommodate satellite reception as well as internal vehicle-specific information reception.
  • New basebands are being added to receive digital terrestrial and satellite radio transmissions like HD, XM, or Sirius Radio.
  • Chip designs for car radios will move to higher integration levels, enabling digital as well as basic radio-human interfaces using innovative software. A host of mixed-signal technologies will help minimize chip counts.

The in-vehicle networking market continues to emphasize electronics to lower costs and further improve quality. The number of nodes in cars is expected to reach 1 billion at the end of the decade, spurring control-area-network (CAN) and local-interconnect-network (LIN) market growth. Networking helps reduce car wiring, leading to reduced costs and more efficient data communication via electronic devices. In the future, the FlexRay communication protocol will be the standard choice for x-by-wire applications.

Technology for measuring tire pressure will no longer be confined to niche markets. As the U.S. Congress enforces its TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act, the automotive industry will have to begin installing tire-pressure monitoring systems into all passenger cars and light trucks based on a phased-in approach beginning November 1, 2003. To make such systems affordable for the masses, IC chips that bundle sophisticated and reliable signal-conditioning technology will be needed, linking tire modules to the driver interface at low costs.

Sensor and power-devices networking throughout the vehicle will continue to grow as well. Power devices are beginning to replace relays in large numbers, further improving quality and reliability. Reduced complexity and cost, coupled with the upward trend of adding more features, are substantially enabled through the continuing technology and productivity improvements in the semiconductor industry.

TAGS: Automotive
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