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Automotive Applications Call Out for Cost Savings

Every year, the amount of electronics in cars increases — we can see it when we stop by any dealership. But to take some of the cost out, we need to find ways to squeeze more functionality into smaller packages. This way, fewer parts are needed (which implicitly means lower cost) and less PC board real estate is required (which explicitly means lower cost).

This can result in either lower cost for vehicles to the end-user or higher profit margins.

Electronic control for the transmission is common now. A controller needs to have the ability to drive electromechanical actuators that directly act on portions of the power train in the transmission or on hydraulic actuators that in turn act on the transmission. As IC vendors develop better processes for high voltage/high current capability on a chip, we should see more of the functionality described above move into the chip level.

Fuel control, primarily in the form of fuel injection, is another area where higher performance and lower cost is the dual goal. As with the transmission, these designs will benefit from the development of high voltage/high current capability IC processes.

Besides the need for increased sophistication in the controllers, we will need higher temperature capability for any electronics associated with the transmission or the engine — especially in cases where direct injection is used. We discussed the heat issue in previous blogs. (See Integrating Analog Functionality for Automotive Applications: Tougher Than You’d Think and (Synthetic) Diamonds Are a Designer’s Best Friend.)

For the suspension, there is already active suspension technology used in high-end/luxury vehicles. As above, there is a need to control electrical and hydraulic actuators. To help move it down into more affordable vehicles, some of the cost needs to be taken out. Less expensive electronics will help there.

In electric or hybrid-electric vehicles, when charging and drawing power from the large series-stack of lithium cells, care must be taken. Since not all cells have exactly the same characteristics, some will discharge before others. If you continue to draw power from the series stack, the discharged cell or cells will become reverse biased and will be damaged. There are ICs available now that can help with the problem, but each IC typically can deal with a small number of cells. So there is an opportunity here to develop ICs that can control a larger number of series connected cells. See Charge & Discharge Lithium Cells in Series for more details.

There is already considerable progress in putting large amounts of audio, video, and power functionality onto a single piece of silicon. We've touched upon class-D a little bit in a blog. But the key here is to make an IC with digital audio inputs, volume and tone control, special spatial processing, video switching/multiplexing, and power supply control. (See Driving Your Speaker (& Not Damaging It) Just Got Easier.)

Since audio and video ICs are a topic that needs a more detailed look — we'll push into that topic more in upcoming blogs.

Note that anything that we can do to reduce the number of ICs and the size of circuit boards will help reduce overall vehicle weight and improve fuel economy. While the changes discussed here represent small changes in weight, every little bit adds up.

What are your experiences working with automotive electronics? What other functionality would you like to see combined into one IC?

— Brad Albing, Editor-in-Chief, Planet Analog and Integration Nation

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21 comments on “Automotive Applications Call Out for Cost Savings

  1. eafpres
    October 29, 2013

    @Brad–you remarks made me think about the reality in most modern automobiles–there are wires everywhere, carrying all these sensor, actuator, infotainment, safety, signaling, and control signals all over the place.  It sounds crazy but if there were a rock solid wireless technology for within the cars systems, you could save a lot of wire and complexity.

    Another amazing thing that comes along with all the electroncs are fuses.  I have a 1998 car built by a certain British make (now owned by an Indian company).  This thing has at least 4, and I think possibly 6 fuse boxes (I have not yet found them all–last time I went looking, on a road trip for a blown fuse, it took me 30 minutes in a parking lot to just figure out the diagram for what they were describing for the location of the access cover to the fuse box.)  There are between 40 and 80 fuses in the car.  How could we improve on that?  Couldn't we devise a circuit breaker array module that took the place of a fuse box?  Could it be done all in analog circuits without actual switches?

  2. Vishal Prajapati
    October 29, 2013

    @eafpres, It is really nice idea to replace all the communication wiring by wireless. Some of the concerns include latency and data rate. If that limitations can be removed, it is good to have all the wiring removed atleast for communication.

     

    Second option. If all the communication including sensors and infotainment can be integrated in to only one communication bus. So, there would be only one bus running throughout vehical. Which will reduce complexity and cost.

  3. Vishal Prajapati
    October 29, 2013

    @eafpres, How about Resettable Fuses/Resettable PTCs? These device might have a limitation when it comes to current ratings. But TE people provide some SMD fuses upto 20A in a small packages of 1206. They are rated with interrupt voltage of 24V. So, I think they are suitable for Automotive application. Then probably replaceble fuses will decrese to some degree.

     

    You can have a look at it here.

    http://www.te.com/catalog/bin/TE.Connect?S=25284&M=PPROP&P=&BML=L2VuL3Byb2R1Y3RzL2NpcmN1aXQtcHJvdGVjdGlvbi9icm93c2UtcHJvZHVjdHMvb3ZlcmN1cnJlbnQtZGV2aWNlcy9mdXNlcy5leHRlcm5hbEhlYWRlci5odG1s&LG=1&PG=1&IDS=483478,483479,483480,483481&N=4

  4. Netcrawl
    October 29, 2013

    @Vishal I think the most exciting development in cars is not about infortainment or some sort of wireless things, its about the development of autonomous vehicle or driverless vehicle, where it used a remote sensing technology, which monitor not only the area ahead of the car but also the sides and rear, sensing technolology also could assist drivers in parking the vehicle, sensors detect when a vehicle is at risk of lane exit due to driver misjudgement, such situational awareness is provided by a variety of sensors in and around the car- a 360 degree view of the vehicle.

    This development could result to a new wave of enhanced vehicle safety and mobility.  

  5. Netcrawl
    October 29, 2013

    @Good point getting wireless is key, how about microcontrollers and capacitive touch solutions? I believe there's a great need for this space, new development in microcontrollers and touch capacitive could radically changed the car industry, a new devices which enable a cost-effective design with industry's lowest power consumption. I'm talking about possible solutions for more advanced automotive controled applications.    

  6. Netcrawl
    October 29, 2013

    @easpres- its all about wireless technology, on thing you missed here is about car access automotive applications, security is very important  and its “a must things” in all automotive applications. Car access have evolved radically from simple key chain to advanced application interface. I believe there's some new development in this field, this development requires dedicated RF transmitter, as well as advanced microcontrollers.

  7. eafpres
    October 29, 2013

    @Vishal–are you referring to parts like these:

    Polyfuse Resettable PTCs

  8. samicksha
    October 29, 2013

    @Vishal, Now as we are in cloud, application optimization has become much easier with more storage and CPU power, athough i cannot gurantee you letency free service but yes high speed service is already an offer from different ISP. what i feel as limitation here is cell site which can limit your speed if you do have any cell site nearby.

  9. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @eafpres – as noted by VP, distributing power and a wired data bus would take out lots of weight (and cost) and increase reliability. For fuses, yes, electonic ckt breakers are an option – and put them near each other and with easy access.

  10. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @VP – I like choice 2 – just a power bus + a (wired) data bus. Then data breakout boxes with power, audio, and video ports (as required) at various locations around the vehicle. Put that functionality on an IC with all the required mixed signal functionality on it. Easy, lightweight, inexpensive, and reliable.

  11. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @Netcrawl – you're right – more opportunity there for integrating lots of mixed signal functionality onto single ICs.

  12. Brad_Albing
    October 29, 2013

    @Netcrawl – well the switches and controls do cost a bit more than we'd like. And there is often reliability problems. So that's a good area to explore.

  13. Vishal Prajapati
    October 30, 2013

    Yes I am refering to that products. Even I have provided link to the part in my previous post. I know they are not automotive qualified, but may be there could be versions for automotive in the near future. I don't know its limitations though.

  14. Vishal Prajapati
    October 30, 2013


    @samicksha,

    what i feel as limitation here is cell site which can limit your speed if you do have any cell site nearby.

     


    What are you refering to cell site? I am not talking about wireless network provided by mobile cellular network. It is just to convert all the existing wiring in the local wireless network within automotive like wireless sensor network.

  15. etnapowers
    October 30, 2013

    @Brad: When you say “to find a way to squeeze more functionality into smaller packages” the heat dissipation is an issue to be solved. The closer are the components one to each other, the higher will be the heat production.

    Moreover the automotive devices have to handle a large amount of power , and more power means further temperature increasing.

     

  16. SunitaT
    October 31, 2013

    Moreover the automotive devices have to handle a large amount of power , and more power means further temperature increasing.

    @etnapowers, temperature increasing is always an issue and we need to find solution to this by using cooling technique so that this increased temperature doesnt impact the ICs.

  17. SunitaT
    October 31, 2013

    Now as we are in cloud, application optimization has become much easier with more storage and CPU power, athough i cannot gurantee you letency free service

    @samicksha, true. Latency is still major challenge and till we find robuts solution to reduce this latency we will not be able to take advantage of this system.

  18. SunitaT
    October 31, 2013

    If all the communication including sensors and infotainment can be integrated in to only one communication bus. So, there would be only one bus running throughout vehical.

    @Vishal, that is a very good idea. I wonder why such solution is not already adopted.I think its always better to have both wired and wireless system implemented so that this redundancy helps improve the reliability.

  19. SunitaT
    October 31, 2013

    This development could result to a new wave of enhanced vehicle safety and mobility.  

    @Netcrawl, true. I think Google is already working on driverless vehicle. Infact I was reading an article which suggested that Google's autonomous cars are better at maintaining a safe distance and breaking sharply than human drivers.

  20. Brad_Albing
    October 31, 2013

    @etnapowers – the heat issue is a serious problem – you're exactly right about that. If parts are designed well (which here means low on-resistance or low saturation voltage), power dissipation can be kept low.

  21. etnapowers
    January 7, 2014

    @SunitaT: I agree with you on the heat dissipation is a challenge for the designers, but I think that a good solution is  to design ICs that are quite temperature insensitive and , at the same time, to find a way to dissipate as more power as possible.

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