Advanced Embedded Systems Drive Next-Generation Automotive Applications

January 27, 2020 Alix Paultre

The migration to intelligent vehicles with advanced features is one that is going on apace, but getting a car to drive itself in the real world is not that simple. Highly-integrated processors are needed to support the advanced functionalities a next-generation vehicle must deliver, providing things like specialized accelerators and functional safety features on-chip, as well as a unified software platform to run it.

Not only does tomorrow’s car need to be smart, it has to integrate a large number of sensors and the flood of data they provide. In order to develop the awareness needed for functions like ADAS, the vehicle systems must deal with in-bound camera, radar, and LIDAR data to help cars see and adapt to the world around them. 

This issue is further complicated by the need to integrate all that functionality in the dash in such a way that it is clear and intuitive to the driver and passengers. This integration must be done in a very comprehensive manner to address all the new entertainment and functionality modalities now available. Not to mention all of this higher functionality and integration all has to happen with high efficiency and low power consumption.

Texas Instruments
One of the companies stepping up to deliver the higher levels of performance needed for automotive systems is Texas Instruments, whose latest low-power, high-performance Jacinto 7 processors enable the mass-market adoption of automotive ADAS and gateway technology. These highly-integrated processors support the demanding needs of smart vehicles, with specialized accelerators and functional safety features on-chip, as well as a unified software platform 

Jacinto 7 processors enable the mass-market adoption of automotive ADAS

Building on TI’s decades of automotive systems and functional safety expertise, the latest Jacinto processor platform brings enhanced deep learning capabilities and advanced networking to solve design challenges in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automotive gateway applications. 

TDA4VM processors for ADAS, and DRA829V processors for gateway systems include specialized on-chip accelerators to segment and expedite data-intensive tasks like computer vision and deep learning. In addition, the TDA4VM and DRA829V processors incorporate a functional safety microcontroller, making it possible for OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers to support both ASIL-D safety-critical tasks and convenience features with one chip. Both devices share a single software platform, which enables developers to reuse their software investment across multiple vehicle domains. 

The influx of information coming into the car underscores the need to quickly and efficiently manage multi-level processing in real time, while using just 5W to 20W of power, eliminating the need for active cooling. The TDA4VM processor offers on-chip analytics combined with sensor pre-processing, enabling more efficient system performance, and are capable of simultaneously operating four to six 3MP cameras, while integrating other sensing modalities such as radar, LIDAR and ultrasonic on-chip. This multilevel capability enables TDA4VM to act as the centralized processor for ADAS and enables the critical features for automated parking, like surround view and image processing for displays. 

Infineon, Xilinx, and Xylon
Some companies are forming partnerships to bring together the IP needed to create the right solutions. An example of this is Infineon, Xilinx, and Xylon teamed up for advanced microcontroller solutions for safety-critical applications, creating a Xylon IP core called logiHSSL. The core enables high-speed communication between Infineon’s AURIX TC2xx and TC3xx microcontrollers and Xilinx’ SoC, MPSoC and FPGA devices via the Infineon High Speed Serial Link (HSSL), supporting speeds of up to 320 Mbaud at a net payload data-rate of up to 84%.  

The HSSL is an Infineon native interface that requires only five pins – two LVDS with two pins each and one clk pin. The IP core will allow system developers to combine safety and security provided by AURIX with the wide range of functional possibilities brought to the table by the Xilinx devices. Linked devices can access and control each other’s internal and connected resources through the HSSL.

To support development activities the partners are offering a starter kit, which includes a Xilinx evaluation kit, an Infineon AURIX evaluation board, and a Xylon FMC board. Kit deliverables include the reference design with the test software application, Xylon’s logicBRICKS evaluation licenses, documentation and technical support.

Maxim Integrated
The number of automotive displays per vehicle continues to grow, with advanced instrument clusters, infotainment, heads-up displays, center displays, rear-seat entertainment, and smart mirrors. Enabling a more flexible approach to the dashboard presentation, the MAX16923 4-output display power IC with watchdog timer from Maxim Integrated Products enables designers to increase the number of displays per vehicle while reducing design complexity, by replacing four or five discrete ICs with a single power management solution.

The MAX16923 offers high integration with four power rails, featuring both a high-voltage and low-voltage buck converter, a high-voltage and low-voltage low-dropout (LDO) regulator, electromagnetic interference (EMI) mitigation, and a watchdog timer. The single chip solution’s high level of integration can reduce an automotive power solution from four or five ICs down to one chip, without making the temperature rise significantly. 

Presented as the industry’s first automotive power management IC to integrate the HV buck converter and LDO, LV buck converter and LDO, and watchdog timer, the device reduces a five-chip solution to a single chip that shrinks space by up to 50 percent. Its spread spectrum, slew-rate controlled switching and programmable switching frequency reduce EMI interference on low noise signal to the display.

Analog Devices and First Sensor 
Managing all the sensor data required is a critical aspect of advanced vehicle functionality. WIth this in mind, Analog Devices  and First Sensor are developing LIDAR offerings to accelerate the autonomous driving adoption. Targeting unmanned automotive, aerial, and underwater vehicles in transportation, smart agriculture, industrial manufacturing, and other industries, the collaboration is developing offerings that shrink the LIDAR signal chain to enable higher system performance as well as reduce size, weight, power and cost.

One goal is to optimize ADI’s industry leading transimpedance amplifiers (TIAs) with First Sensor’s avalanche photodiodes (APDs), to offer more powerful and efficient LIDAR solutions. Recent developments include multi-channel TIAs specifically designed to convert wide dynamic range photocurrent into a low-impedance voltage signal. Optimizing the interconnection between the APDs and TIAs is critical, as it significantly influences the noise floor and bandwidth achieved. Improvements in these two parameters directly translate to LIDAR systems which can detect objects at longer range and with higher precision.

This cooperation with First Sensor marks Analog Devices’ next phase in implementing its Drive360 autonomous driving solutions strategy. ADI’s Drive360 suite of technologies leverage ADI’s core competencies in high performance MEMS, RF/mmWave, and photonics/optics technologies, allowing ADI to provide the automotive industry with holistic solutions and be a dedicated partner for highly automated and autonomous driving technology needs. 

Driving forward
Cars, trucks, and buses are by definition systems with a lot of moving parts, and those parts demand a high level of functional integration. The challenge of selection is constantly being addressed by newer, better, and more advanced component solutions being made available to the design community, Taking these tools and integrating them properly into your solutions can give you the performance advantages that you need.

 
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