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Automotive Electronics: A Future Road to Be Well Traveled

Autonomous vehicles, integrated safety features1 , Flat Panel Display (FPD) Link, engine start/stop systems, and so many more design ideas abound for the automobile of the near future to enhance our driving and entertainment experience beyond Henry Ford's wildest dreams.

A short while ago, I met with two bright and insightful Texas Instruments automotive people to discuss the future of electronics in this exciting and fast-growing field of automotive electronics. Sonya Terry, worldwide automotive communications manager, introduced me to Fern Yoon, automotive solutions marketing manager, and we had a really informative and creative future-based session. The FPD-Link was at the center of our conversation regarding the near term.

Why the FPD-Link?
This link enables high-speed video, audio, and data transport throughout the vehicle. See Figure 1.

Figure 1

The FPD-Link holds a great deal of promise in the new automobile electronics architecture.

The FPD-Link holds a great deal of promise in the new automobile electronics architecture.

Both display interfaces and camera interfaces benefit from power and data over one twisted pair with FPD-Link technology. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

Display and camera interfaces are made easy with FPD-Link technology.

Display and camera interfaces are made easy with FPD-Link technology.

Evolution of the FPD-Link
FPD has evolved from FPD-Link I to FPD-Link II and now to FPD-Link III. See Figure 3.

Figure 3

The FPD-Link Evolution.

The FPD-Link Evolution.

FPD-Link I started by bringing “many to less”; that is, three or four data lines plus one clock using eight wires. Cable length was around three meters, and EMI was improved over the older/traditional cabling systems.

FPD-Link II brought “many to one”; now it could handle two wires plus control at up to 1.8 Gbit/s. Cable length went to 10 meters, and weight was reduced. There were no ground currents on the cable, and standards such as AEC-Q100 and ISO 10605 were met.

Then came FPD-Link III, where we are today. We can now “do more on one”; using only two wires, we can run up to speeds of 3 Gbit/s with an embedded control channel, as well. High-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) is an option, and adaptive equalization enhances high-speed data capability with an improved “eye diagram” that compensates for cable type, length, age, and condition, with the added bonus of power transfer capability. Again, standards such as AEC-Q100 and ISO 10605 are met.

So FPD-Link III has video, bi-directional control (with I2 C controller interface), and power over a single twisted pair or coaxial cable assembly. There are multiple interface options like RGB, YUV, OpenLDI (FPD-Link), MIPI CSI-2, and HDMI.

Figure 4

Multiple system interface options exist and can be handled by the FPD-Link III solution.

Multiple system interface options exist and can be handled by the FPD-Link III solution.

Displays
FPD-Link III has a solution for 720p displays with the TI DS90UH/B927/928. See Figure 5.

Figure 5

The FPD-Link II delivers low EMI with a tablet-like experience.

The FPD-Link II delivers low EMI with a tablet-like experience.

Megapixel cameras
There is an FPD-Link III SerDes chipset for megapixel driver-assist cameras as well. See Figures 7 and 8.

Figure 7

Driver-assist cameras can be placed in numerous areas without cumbersome, heavy cables by using a SerDes chipset that cuts down the number of copper cables needed.

Driver-assist cameras can be placed in numerous areas without cumbersome, heavy cables by using a SerDes chipset that cuts down the number of copper cables needed.

What about transmission protocols? The information would be passed on to a CPU via various standards. See Figure 8.

Figure 8

A bi-directional control cable really simplifies cable transmission by using a SerDes design, DS90UB914A-Q1, in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) like the one shown.

A bi-directional control cable really simplifies cable transmission by using a SerDes design, DS90UB914A-Q1, in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) like the one shown.

Watch this video for innovation in ADAS.

Fern Yoon told me that we should look to the IEEE for the next-generation Ethernet as a next step in simplifying automotive cable protocol.

The autonomous vehicle is the ultimate level of sophistication: One sensor fusion box with camera and other inputs2
Our discussion then led us to a single sensor fusion box hub in the future automobile for sensing and control.

Figure 9

A functional view of the data flow in an autonomous car's sensing and control system.(Source: Reference 2)

A functional view of the data flow in an autonomous car's sensing and control system.
(Source: Reference 2)

Electronic motor and torque sensors1
Fern Yoon also discussed the importance of ultimately sending commands to the car's mechanical parts, like an electronic motor and torque sensors.

Figure 10

In the future autonomous car, sensor processing will occur throughout the car's periphery to send signals and commands to the car's mechanical parts.(Source: Reference 2)

In the future autonomous car, sensor processing will occur throughout the car's periphery to send signals and commands to the car's mechanical parts.
(Source: Reference 2)

Wireless is the ultimate step in data transmission
We discussed the fact that wireless will be the ultimate step in automotive electronics evolution — no wires are better than a few wires. Wireless will get rid of cables and lower the weight and cost of the automobile. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) has already taken a major step in this direction.

48 V board in EVs
Our final discussion centered on the EV's electrical power source, the LiFePO4 cells (typically 16 cells in series, the total nominal voltage 51.2 V, balancing voltage 3.6 V), and balancing the high currents in large-capacity cells better on the battery management board in the future. TI's battery management team (many of these designers from a 1999 Unitrode and Benchmarq acquisition team based in Manchester, N.H.) certainly has the experience and track record in the industry for battery protection and balancing innovations. I forsee more new and exciting solutions coming in the near future from this team.

Conclusion
I came away from this meeting with a good feeling that the future smart automobile is in good hands, as I could see Fern Yoon visualizing ideas even as we spoke throughout our meeting. Keep a close watch on this automotive solutions group at Texas Instruments — they hold our future in their capable hands.

References:

  1. Requirements and concepts for automotive electronic architectures from the view of integrated safety, Xi Chen
  2. Scalable electronics driving autonomous vehicle technologies, Fernando Mujica, Ph.D., Director, Autonomous Vehicles R&D, Kilby Labs, Texas Instruments, April 2014

This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EDN.

1 comment on “Automotive Electronics: A Future Road to Be Well Traveled

  1. Eldredge
    June 9, 2014

    These are impressive strides forward in the FPD Link technology. It will be interesting to watch it being integrated into nwer automobiles.

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