We’re All Part of the Automotive Evolution

With safety at the forefront, the automotive industry continues to embrace new technologies to deliver greater autonomy and efficiency

Delivering autonomy with safety and reliability

ADAS (Advanced Drive Assist Systems) and its evolution into full autonomy could see the end of road-based fatalities, injuries and incidents. Technology is now providing the solutions that can help the automotive industry achieve Vision Zero within just a few years. This is happening in part thanks to the advancement of image sensors that see the world as we do, and technologies such as radar and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) that see it in a very different way.

These exciting technologies can be used for ranging, 3D mapping and gesture recognition. 3D mapping is closely related to the Time of Flight (ToF) methodology, which uses light emitted and detected within a known space, such as inside the car, to create a three-dimensional map of the area. ToF is now being used to detect gestures, such as reaching for a control, and monitor occupants for safety reasons. LiDAR will also be used for ranging, which enables vehicles to detect other objects, both moving and stationary. Ranging will be complementary to other technologies being developed to support autonomous driving and together these techniques will see LiDAR becoming a key technology in tomorrow’s automotive industry.

More powerful computing solutions—coupled with image sensors that are optimized for the automotive environment, able to operate in all light conditions and adapt dynamically to changing scenes—are putting machine learning and artificial intelligence at the very edge of the network. ON Semiconductor is actively developing LiDAR technology based on Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD / Silicon Photomultiplier (SiPM) sensors that will truly enable vehicles to ‘see’ their surroundings in a way that augments other sensing modalities. The performance behind these solutions will deliver the response time, accuracy and reliability needed to develop systems that are true to the ‘safety first’ ethos of the automotive industry.

The continued electrification of automobiles

An active area of development in the automotive market is the increased electrification of the drive train and other key functions within vehicles. While vehicles powered by conventional internal combustion engines continue to be developed, it is no secret that the industry is moving closer to full electric. Hybrids are an important staging post on the route to full electrification and while this is influencing both short- and long-term product roadmaps for semiconductor suppliers, we cannot forget that this is an evolution, not a revolution.

One constant in this is the demand for high quality and optimized semiconductors. As more systems become electrically controlled the number of power transistors is increasing rapidly; from powered tailgates to motorized car seats, electric water pumps and adaptive headlights, windows, wiper blades and numerous other features. The list is extensive and growing rapidly, key to the continued migration to full electrification is the need for devices that exactly meet the requirements and in this respect one size does not fit all. In fact, it would be rare for a single device to be ideal for two applications.

As the automotive industry embraces higher voltages to support hybrid and fully electric vehicles, large capacity batteries with storage voltages in the range of 400V (or even up to 800V) will become the norm, while the vehicle’s systems will still operate at 48V or 12V. Because of this, a wide product portfolio and an investment in new solutions is critical. Silicon Carbide (SiC), for example, is complementary to conventional silicon and is appropriate for high-power applications.

The road to full electrification involves even more data

As the electrification of vehicles continues to pervade every part of the automotive industry, manufacturers recognize that the vehicle is becoming a much more complex system. All of its functional units now communicate to share and act on data being produced at multiple points in the vehicle. Much of this data is time-dependent, so the real-time nature of the system is becoming more mission-critical.

Realizing total autonomy relies on many things, including a communications infrastructure that can support a low latency network of nodes; just as a vehicle’s network will feature hundreds of nodes, each vehicle will represent a node on the road network. Managing this seismic change while not jeopardizing safety is the challenge that lies ahead for the entire industry.

Addressing design complexity and time to market

Interest and demand are definitely growing for the increased electrification and autonomy of vehicles, both from consumers and vertical sectors such as logistics and mass transport. This is putting pressure on manufacturers to increase the pace at which they can develop and introduce new, more complex features.

Design velocity is subject to the rising levels of complexity at a component level; engineers are faced with new challenges at the start of every new design, as component manufacturers strive to deliver greater value and efficiency for their customers and their applications. Engineers can look to Avnet and ON Semiconductor for support across the entire product development ecosystem; through Avnet communities to vet design ideas, and on to resources to augment designing for manufacturability, supply chain services, global distribution and regulatory support and post-sales.

For example, they can leverage the ADAS Reference Designs available from Avnet, which include multifunction sensors and embedded vision, and the Modular Automotive Reference System, or MARS, which is a development platform from ON Semiconductor that is dedicated to automotive imaging applications. MARS features an evaluation module for every single image sensor produced by ON Semiconductor, and as it is a modular system, any sensor can be matched to any processor board or interface board to quickly evaluate a complete system. This totally interchangeable approach means development teams can move quickly from concept to final design.

To complement the MARS platform, ON Semiconductor has also created the Strata Developer Studio; the latest addition to the engineering communities’ toolbox for combatting rising design complexity. Strata not only gives engineers the ability to access the latest design resources, but it effectively becomes a design partner. As soon as a Strata-enabled development board is plugged into a host computer running the Strata application, its cloud-connectivity automatically accesses, retrieves and installs all of the design files needed to start evaluating the hardware and software provided. This has the potential to reduce the design complexity massively, while always ensuring the engineering team is referencing the very latest design data.

Keep up with accelerating automotive innovations

The automotive industry is experiencing its most significant period of change since its inception. The electrification of the drive train is only one aspect of that change, but one that is intimately linked with autonomy. According to research carried out by Allied Market Research, the autonomous vehicle market is worth just under $55 billion in 2019 but will reach almost $560 billion by 2026.

What will remain constant during that amazing growth period is the need for a responsible approach to the development and introduction of the new features that will lead towards full autonomy with safety and autonomy. Avnet and ON Semiconductor provide product innovations and development ecosystem to help engineers keep up with the speed of this market.

Learn more about how together we can support for your automotive application. 

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