John Day

News and commentary on automotive EE trends and topics

20 May, 2014

I appreciate Mentor Graphics inviting me to moderate a panel discussion at the Design Automation Conference (DAC). The topic: Electric Vehicle Electrical/Electronic Architectures – Evolutionary or Revolutionary. Based on first impressions it appears that the session will be lively. If you’re planning to attend, the session starts at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, June 3 in room 309.

The session topic is the degree to which the automotive electrical system architecture must either be altered (evolutionary) or fundamentally redesigned (revolutionary). Panel members will explore different opinions and discuss various implications.

Panel members scheduled to participate are:

Naehyuck Chang, Professor of Electrical Engineering in the CAD-X Laboratory at Seoul National University;

Aftab Khan, Vice President of Global Hybrid Engineering, Lear Corporation;

Ash Punater, software group leader, Delphi Electronics and Safety;

Sebastian Steinhorst, Research Fellow, RP3 – Embedded Systems, TUM CREATE Ltd., and

Ian Wright, founder and CEO, Wrightspeed, Inc.
Read the rest of this entry »

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13 May, 2014

Reliability is an increasingly critical factor in the automotive industry especially considering the proliferation of electronic features and systems in today’s and tomorrow’s cars. Alas, there are no reliable cars without reliable electronic components, which is to say devices and subsystems able to function as intended despite very hot or very cold environments.

For quite some time now, Mentor Graphics has been a market leader in hardware, software and systems for thermal simulation and analysis. This week the company launched a major new system, the MicReD Industrial Power Tester, for testing high power components.

The MicReD is based on Mentor’s T3Ster® (pronounced “trister”) thermal tester that is widely used for accurate thermal characterization of semiconductor device packages and LEDs.

Mentor says the new MicReD is the only commercially available thermal testing product that combines power cycling and thermal transient measurements with structure function analysis while also providing data for real-time failure-cause diagnostics.

The faster that power components can be tested, the better. Combining power cycling and thermal transient measurements on one system means that a technician or engineer doesn’t have to remove components from the test environment to shift from one mode to the other.

The MicReD can power modules through thousands or even millions of cycles while providing real-time failure-in-progress data for diagnostics. Operators can see a failure as it progresses and determine the exact time/cycle and cause. That reduces test and lab diagnosis time and eliminates the need for post-mortem or destructive failure analysis.

The system analyzes common thermally-induced mechanical failures such as die-attach wire bond separations, die and package stack-up delamination and cracks, and solder fatigue. It can perform power cycling tests of MOSFETs, IGBTs and power diodes.

Roland Feldhinkel, general manager of Mentor Graphics Mechanical Analysis Division, notes that the tester serves the growing demand for power electronics components that have to perform with high reliability under extreme conditions. “We’re leveraging our expertise in thermal characterization and testing to deliver a product for applications where we see great potential.”

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7 May, 2014

Have you registered yet for the 51st Design Automation Conference (June 1-5 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco)? If not, here’s a link: https://dac.com//content/registration-rates

And if you are going, don’t miss the Automotive Pavilion. Mentor Graphics has clearly put some effort into a program there that it’s calling “Connected Engineering™ for the Automotive Industry.”

Mentor offers products and solutions that help engineers overcome design challenges in board and chip design and the company notes that the automotive industry faces similar challenges. Consider for a moment, if you will, the pace at which new electrical/electronic features and systems are being introduced.

Mentor Graphics’ technology encompasses EE systems design, in-vehicle infotainment, system modeling, mechanical analysis, and embedded software – and probably more than that by next month. At DAC, they’re offering at least three presentations worthwhile for any automotive EE engineer:

Serge Leef, Mentor Graphics VP New Ventures, GM System-Level Engineering Division, will present a seminar on “Applying EDA Techniques to Analysis and Optimization to In-vehicle Distributed Systems.”
Serge notes that developing complex automotive hardware/software systems requires building accurate virtual prototypes and simulators for systems design and optimization, and for parallel software development. This session will feature different talks discussing various challenges and solutions in this domain.

Joachim Langenwalter, Mentor’s director for Automotive in Europe, will present a seminar, “Connected Engineering for Automotive EE Design.” He says that a well-managed process with seamless information flow from concept to design to verification to in-production updating is the “holy grail” for a fully enabled systems engineering process. The seminar will present three different views of systems engineering at various levels.

Finally, Wally Rhines, Mentor Graphics chairman and CEO, will preside at a Fireside Chat, “Automotive Engineers Love Design Automation.” Wally will be joined by Ford’s leading EE technologist, Jim Buczkowski, and the two will talk about designing cars of the future and the role of EGA. Come with questions.

Will I see you there?

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28 April, 2014

IHS Technology predicts that the market for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) semiconductor devices will quadruple from $643.8 million in 2010 to $2.6 billion in 2020 thanks to increasing demand for car and driver safety systems. The research firm expects that market for ADAS chips to grow by 20% this year.

Take image sensors, for example, used in front-view camera systems. They can analyze video content for lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition and high/low-beam headlight control. Those features are increasingly common on new vehicles and quickly growing in market awareness and acceptance.

Applications based on radar and LiDAR are also generating a lot of interest. Radar and LiDAR both use remote-sensing technology to help determine variables such as road conditions, objects surrounding the vehicle, or the speed of other nearby cars.

Akhilesh Kona, IHS analyst for automotive semiconductors, said revenue for semiconductors used in front-camera and LiDAR modules is expected to grow steadily, from $118 million in 2013 to $650 in 2020 for front-camera chips and from $236 million in 2013 to $653 million in 2020 for radar and LIDAR chips, which amounts to a compound annual growth rate of 16 percent.

Additional ADAS mechanisms could be present in the future to monitor both drivers and passengers within a car. Applications like a road-frustration index could help increase the safety quotient for autonomous driving—not only making the driving experience more enjoyable as a whole, but also helping prevent accidents on the road, IHS believes.

“IHS expects ADAS content in cars to grow steadily for many years, owing to an increasing number of features that will be implemented in the car, with an aim toward deploying increasingly autonomous vehicles,” said Luca DeAmbroggi, principal analyst for automotive demand at IHS.

“The market will also be helped by the implementation of data-fusion modules—extra hardware added to combine the input coming from two or more different sensors present in the car—because of the need for more sensing redundancy and for higher functional-safety requirements in vehicles.”

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25 April, 2014

There’s a lot happening at the Design Automation Conference (DAC) June 1-5 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and much of it, I’m delighted to say, focuses on automotive technology.

At 10:30 and again at 1:30 on Monday, June 2, Anthony Cooprider from Ford and Samarjit Chakraborty from the Technical University of Munich will present a tutorial, “Automotive Embedded Systems – A Quick Introduction and the Road Ahead.”

The presenters note that cars today are large distributed, embedded systems containing tens of millions of lines of code. Such systems present a variety of technical challenges involving processor design and selection, architecture selection, embedded software, verification, security, reliability and applications and operating systems. The tutorial will provide an introduction to those issues to an EDA and embedded systems audience and outline some of the emerging challenges.

Mentor Graphics is one of six companies sponsoring the Automotive Village, where DAC attendees can relax and network beginning at 5:00 pm on Monday.

At 9:00 am on Tuesday, Jim Tung from MathWorks and Jim Buczkowski from Ford Motor Company will deliver a Dual Keynote, “Automating the Automobile.” They’ll explore the key trends that are shaping the future of cars and examine what it will take to design the electronics.

At 10:30 am on Tuesday Qi Zhu from the University of California at Riverside will chair a research paper session on “Taming the Complexity of In-Vehicle Networks” and Avi Ziv from IBM will chair a session on “Verification and Validation for the Automotive Domain.”

At 11:00 am on Tuesday Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines will moderate a Fireside Chat, “Automotive Engineers Love Design Automation.” He’ll be joined by Yatin Trivedi from Synopsys and Ford’s Jim Buczkowski.

At 11:30 am on Tuesday Walid Abu-Hadba, chief product officer at ANSYS and formerly corporate VP of Developer & Platform Evangelism at Microsoft will present a Sky Talk, “Managing Multi-Scale, Multi-Physics Challenges in the New Generation of Automotive Systems.”

At 1:30 pm on Tuesday Sethu Ramesh from General Motors will chair a special session on “Automotive Electronics Hardware Solutions for Safety” and Allon Adir from IBM will chair a session on “Virtualization and Prototyping for Automotive Architectures.”

At 2:30 pm on Tuesday Jim Hogan from Vista Ventures will moderate a Pavilion Panel, “Hogan’s Heroes: Self-Driving Cars – Victory Lap or Pile-Up?”

At 4:00 pm on Tuesday Michael Munsey from Dassault Systèmes will chair a special session, “Modeling and Simulation for Automotive Embedded Systems” and I will moderate a panel “EV E/E Architectures – Evolutionary or Revolutionary.”

At 10:30 am on Wednesday Jim Tung from Mathworks will chair a research paper session, “Smart Cars – Innovate or Die” and Christoph Stoermer from ETAS Group will chair a special session, “Model-Based Specification and Testing of Automotive Hw/Sw Architectures.”

At 11:30 am on Wednesday, David Kleidermacher, chief technology officer at Green Hills Software, will present a Sky Talk on “Securing the Internet of Cars.”

At 1:30 pm on Wednesday Albrecht Mayer from Infineon will chair a special session on “Design for Automotive Safety and Reliability” and Wolfgang Ecker, also from Infineon, will chair a special session “Enabling Automotive Systems Engineering.”

At 2:30 pm on Wednesday Brian Fuller from Cadence Design Systems will moderate a Pavilion Panel “Design Walkthrough: An Advanced Driver Assist System for High-End Cars.”

At 4:00 pm on Wednesday Christopher Davey from Ford will moderate a panel “System Engineering Methods and Tools for Automotive EE Design: Old Wine in a New Bottle?” and Andrew Patterson from Mentor Graphics will chair a special session “Software in Automotive – How Different Can It Be?”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg and I’m sorry if I’ve overlooked an automotive session. I’ll have more to say about DAC in my next post.

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21 April, 2014

I’ve not experienced this particular problem – with one exception – but I can well imagine that others have: a driver’s rearward visibility is marred by cargo, tall passengers, inclement weather, or what have you. Not good.

Nissan is offering a solution – a Smart Rearview Mirror that combines a newly developed narrow-angle camera and a specially shaped LCD monitor.

The monitor has an aspect ratio of approximately 4:1, versus conventional monitors’ 4:3 or 16:9. Nissan said it couldn’t match a standard wide-angle camera lens to the monitor since the images from the camera were of insufficient resolution and image quality when adjusted to the special monitor size. So it developed a 1,300,000 pixel, narrow-angle camera able to provide the necessary image quality.

The monitor is integrated into a traditional rearview mirror, and with a control at the bottom of the mirror, a driver can switch between traditional and Smart. Compared with a standard mirror, the camera projects a wider and clearer view and, Nissan suggests, a more comfortable driving experience.

No Glare from Bright Headlights

The Smart Mirror can provide a clear image, with minimal glare, in all kinds of weather, and during sunrise or sunset or when the vehicle is being followed by a vehicle with bright headlights. That’s where my eyes light up: driving at night with headlights glaring in my rearview mirror is not a lot of fun.

“Smart Rearview Mirror will give our customers the best possible view no matter how tall the passengers in the back seat or how bad the road conditions,” said Nissan executive vice president and chief planning officer Andy Palmer.

“It also offers the possibility of new and exciting designs for our upcoming models, ensuring that appearance no longer has to be compromised for visibility and functionality. We’ll have the flexibility to create new shapes and to further improve aerodynamics for better driving dynamics and fuel efficiency.”

Nissan installed the monitor in a 2014 Rogue on display at the New York Auto Show. It’s planning to introduce the Smart Rearview Mirror to global markets over the next few years after an initial rollout to Japanese customers this spring.

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11 April, 2014

In my last post I noted the launch by Freescale and Broadcom of a single-chip automotive microcontroller (MCU) that supports compact video compression and fast transmission of video data throughout a vehicle over unshielded twisted pair cabling. The firms said cabling weight could be reduced by up to 30% and connectivity costs reduced by up to 80%.

But wait, there’s more. Cable weight in cars is quite a big deal, and this week Freescale and Maxim Integrated Products both announced products to support higher resolution displays for automotive infotainment and/or advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and simultaneously reduce cabling costs.

Freescale introduced a new family of ARM® Cortex®-based single-chip, triple-core MCUs, the MAC57D5xx. The devices support complex graphics, including heads-up displays that previously required multiple components, e.g., a main processor, graphics unit, external SRAM, and dedicated circuitry.

Freescale said the cost and complexity of all that restricted the benefits to premium cars but now head-up displays and the like should be affordable for mid- and economy-tier segments.

“With automotive system integration at an all-time high, OEMs and their suppliers are focused on consolidating large amounts of driver information and increasing the quality of graphics in dashboards, while keeping safety and security as the first concern,” said Ray Cornyn, vice president of Product Management and Global Marketing for Freescale’s Automotive MCU business.

Taking a different approach, Maxim introduced a family of Gigabit Multimedia Serial Link (GMSL) serializer/ deserializer (SerDes) chipsets that can be used either with shielded twisted pair (STP) or with lighter and less costly coax cabling for high-resolution ADAS or central and rear-seat displays. Maxim estimates that coax can cut cable weight and cost by up to 50%. The SerDes chipsets can drive 1920×720 pixel displays with 24-bit color, and can drive up to 15 meters of cable.

“Consumers are increasingly considering connectivity and infotainment capability in their automobile buying decisions,” said Nina Turner, Research Manager at IDC. “Automotive manufacturers will need to cost-effectively deliver high-resolution video to infotainment displays.”

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2 April, 2014

ABI Research predicts that the global ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) market will reach $261 billion by 2020, making it one of the fastest growing segments in the automotive sector.

ADAS includes applications like park assist and blind spot detection that benefit from surround view camera systems, but surround view is costly because of the heavy shielded cabling it needs; thus it’s more common in luxury than in mainstream vehicles.

Freescale Semiconductor and Broadcom Corp. hope to change that with a new microcontroller (MCU) they launched this week. The single-chip Freescale Qorivva MPC5606E integrates Broadcom’s BroadR-Reach Ethernet PHY.

Both firms are charter members of the Open (One Pair Ether Net) Alliance Automotive Special Interest Group (SIG), which encourages wide scale adoption of Ethernet-based networks as the future de facto standard in automotive networking applications.

Beyond a speed advantage Ethernet sharply reduces the weight and cost of cabling and connections. Freescale and Broadcom estimate that their new MCU has the potential to reduce cabling weight by up to 30 percent and connectivity costs by up to 80 percent.

They say the chip can also reduce the size of automotive camera modules by up to 50 percent. Automakers prefer peripheral cameras to be miniaturized and unobtrusive to maintain vehicle aesthetics. Smaller cameras can be more easily hidden within design features of the car, such as a front grill, bumper or wing mirror.

“Our collaboration with Freescale will enable the development of more optimized ADAS camera solutions and drive the proliferation of advanced features in a broader range of vehicles – beyond the luxury class,” says Dr. Ali Abaye, Broadcom Senior Director of Automotive.

Freescale is sampling the new device now and expects that will be available in production quantities by the end of 2014.

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28 March, 2014

We hear a lot about connected cars these days and clearly, if we’re going to have them, the cars need fast and reliable access to external data.

Hoping to help that along, Continental this week introduced a high-speed telematics module that offers up to 100 Mbps bandwidth wherever in the world the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile network standard is available.

The module addresses cellular technologies including HSPA, EVDO, GSM, and CDMA, in addition to LTE. It supports national frequency variants in the US, Europe, Russia, China, Brazil, and many other countries. Consumer device connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB, and automotive bus standards including MOST, CAN, LIN, Ethernet, USB, and Wi-Fi are supported. A compact (35x 40 mm) printed circuit board holds the full chipset – application IC plus RAM/FLASH.

“With our new LTE-capable telematics module, drivers around the globe can expand their capabilities with cloud services, lifestyle apps, and many more innovative features to make driving more comfortable, more efficient, and safer,” said Johann Hiebl, head of Continental’s Business Unit Infotainment & Connectivity.

Hiebl adds, “Our new high-speed Telematics module connects drivers to what matters.” The module will support in-vehicle features such as connecting a smartphone to the car; on- and off-board navigation; safety and security services such as automatic collision notification or remote diagnostics; premium assistance on the road; a Wi-Fi hot spot for rear seat entertainment and business productivity, and various apps.

Continental and others believe that being “Always on” is fast becoming a core requirement for new vehicles, since in the relatively near future, connected cars will be a part of the Internet of everything; communicating with other cars, and with the cloud. Continental’s telematics module is should be available for production in early 2016.

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24 March, 2014

Now that the snow is finally starting to melt, it seems that potholes are everywhere. It makes sense to drive slowly and avoid them wherever possible because they can do serious damage to cars – $5 billion per-year worth in the U.S., by some estimates; several hundred dollars per-year for the average vehicle owner.

“Drivers know immediately when they hit a pothole, but what they don’t know is if their vehicle has been damaged in the process,” says Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “While tires and wheels can be visually checked, potholes can also cause considerable damage to the steering, suspension and alignment systems that you just can’t see.” Potholes are estimated to cause the average motorist several hundred dollars per-year.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) explains that potholes occur when snow and ice melt as part of seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. The resulting water seeps beneath the pavement through cracks caused by the wear and tear of traffic. As temperatures cool to freezing at night, the water becomes ice and expands below the pavement, forcing the pavement to rise. As the weight of traffic continues to pound on the raised section – and the temperatures climb again above freezing – a shallow divot occurs under the surface and the pavement breaks, forming a pothole. A pothole is typically fixed by cleaning out the loose debris and filling it with hot and cold asphalt patch.

One way to mitigate pothole damage? Buy a Lincoln MKZ. Among its standard features is a continuously controlled damping (CCD) suspension said to provide some protection against jarring impact and costly wheel/tire repairs.

CCD has 12 sensors that can read nearly 50 inputs from road conditions in two milliseconds. In normal conditions, the CCD system provides real-time data to adjust the shocks quickly for an optimum blend of ride and handling.

Pothole Algorithm Software

When a pothole is detected and a wheel drops rapidly, specially developed pothole algorithm software applies additional damping to the shocks to keep the tire and wheel from dropping as deeply into the pothole. The result is a less-harsh reaction. Because the tire and wheel don’t drop as deeply into the pothole, the tire and wheel don’t strike the opposite side of the pothole as harshly, mitigating the effects of many events.

Meanwhile, keep an eye out, and slow down.

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