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On Electronics/May

Systems-on-a-Chip; Microcontrollers; Cutting ICs down to size; and more...
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Renesas’s System Can Augment Reality

Among the next big things in automotive technology is “augmented reality.” For example, systems that transmit translucent images on the infotainment screens—or perhaps one day on windshields—to indicate a destination, a friend calling, or an appointment reminder from your calendar. But before augmented reality enters true reality, systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) will need more powerful platforms. 

Renesas Electronics Corp. (am.renesas.com) and Renesas Mobile Corp. (renesasmobile.com) have introduced a new auto-focused SoC: the R-Car H2. This SoC is powerful enough to support 3D graphics for sophisticated multimedia, navigation systems, and real-time image processing to support augmented reality applications, the chipmakers note. Powered by an ARM Cortex A-15 quad-core architecture that also runs another a 7 ARM Cortex quad core, the hardware, Renesas says, supports things like HD 1080p video processing including Blu-Ray support at 60 frames per second, image and voice recognition, and high-resolution 3D graphics with “almost no CPU load.”

The R-Car H2 also features the Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series6 G6400 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which is the first global application of the GPU into an automotive SoC, making 3D graphics possible in the R-Car series, according to Renesas. R-Car H2 also supports up to four independent input camera channels for 360º camera views and image recognition to improve driver assistance functions. 

“First generation R-Car series products are well accepted in the car infotainment market,” says Ryuji Omura, executive manager at Renesas Electronics. “To cover various customer demands, [the] second generation of R-Car, such as R-Car H2, aimed at the further expansion of ecosystem with a number of our partners including embedded OS, middleware and Tool vendors.”

�  Renesas Electronics R-Car H2 system on a chip. 


Freescale’s Microcontrollers: More Processing, Less Weight

If you drive a new(ish) vehicle, with an up-to-date infotainment system, chances are you’re hauling around the weight equivalent of another passenger. The average vehicle, according to Freescale Semiconductor (freescale.com) is carrying 150 pounds of electronic control units and miles of copper wiring to support it.

Reducing that weight, securing the data that flows over those increasing bandwidth networks, improving functional safety, and, of course, cutting down energy consumption, are main challenges on the minds of Freescale engineers (and their competitors) when it comes to applications in the vehicle cabin. The semiconductor maker says it has expanded its Qorivva and S12 MagniV vehicle body network microcontroller (MCU) portfolios to address them all. 

The Qorivva MPC5748G MCU is a single chip with a multicore architecture and memory options of up to 6 MB of flash and 768 KB of RAM. With a flash memory from 8 KB to 192 KB and a range of package options between 32 and 64 pins, the S12 MagniV S12ZVL/S12ZVC MCUs are aimed at helping OEMs optimize their cabin networking systems. The two MCUs are considered complementary devices that are paired with the Qorivva central controller, which the company says acts as “the networking gatekeeper.” Integrating the devices, Freescale notes, means a simplified vehicle network, creating board sizes that are 30% smaller and less weighty. 

 “Our latest MCU offerings will enable OEMs to reduce up to 20 pounds of copper wiring and board components, reducing vehicle weight and in turn further improving fuel economy,” says Ray Cornyn, vice president of Automotive Microcontroller Products at Freescale.

Samples of both MCUs should be available during the second quarter of 2013 and on the market by the second half of 2014.


Freescale’s new microcontrollers promise to boost graphics management, dropping copper wiring weight.


 OpenSynergy, NVIDIA : Smarter & Fewer Chips

At the recent GPU Technology Conference, OpenSynergy (opensynergy.com), which specializes in software platforms for embedded automotive systems, and chipmaker NVIDIA (NVIDIA.com), demonstrated an instrument cluster and head unit that share the same brain. 

That brain is a single quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA. OpenSynergy is providing the neurons (to continue the analogy) in the form of COQOS, its software platform that allows several CPU-intensive systems to be embedded onto the chip. 


TI’s Voltage Play: Controllers, DC Boards

Texas Instruments (ti.com) says its new automotive-grade voltage synchronous boost controllers also will boost efficiency by up to 10% over non-synchronous versions. 

The controllers are designed with a synchronous switch instead of a freewheeling diode, improving efficiency and reducing heat. That also means increased board space and lower cost overall, TI notes. 

The new products include the LM5122Q, a multi-phase boost controller with a wide input and output voltage range; and the low quiescent-current TPS43060 and TPS43061 boost controllers, which feature 1-MHz operation and a small QFN package. Each boost controller features thermal shutdown, frequency synchronization, hiccup-mode current limit, and an adjustable line under-voltage lockout.

The LM5122Q is a synchronous boost controller with a 3-V to 65-V input and up to 100-V output voltage range. The controller can be configured for multi-phase operation, required for high power applications, like start-stop voltage stabilizers and high power audio amplifiers. 

TI also is introducing a programmable DC board, the RD-195, to better guard battery systems in cars, but also in bigger things like planes and industrial equipment. The typical response time of the solution is less than 100 milliseconds, reducing the risk of a fire. A software application tool with the RD-195 will come in handy for designers wanting to fine-tune the system’s arc detection threshold to better pick up real arcs while avoiding false detections. The RD-195 detects different types of arcs, including series, parallel and ground arcs. 


Texas Instruments has a new DC board is designed to detect arcs, and dismiss false positives, avoiding potential battery fires in the process.

 Cutting ICs Down to Size



STMicroelectronics recently unveiled the seventh generation of its VIPower Family, which includes an array of switch integrated circuits for car electronics, including lights and body modules. 

Some 75% of those ICs are found in 5 × 4-mm packaging, which STMicroelectronics says is 40% smaller than its competitors’ versions. The smaller size allows car electronics designers to save PC-board space and develop smaller modules. In addition to the decreased size, STM says they’ve improved on the technology’s protection from short circuits, management of voltage and temperature feedback accuracy, and electromagnetic emission. 

ST’s VIPower suite has a common package style for multiple devices, the thinking being Tier 1 suppliers can construct several variations of modules deploying the same basic hardware and software, thereby allowing automakers to address different requirements in international markets. 





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