Irvine, Calif. — Back-up cameras seem almost quaint today, even though the technology is just moving into the mainstream automotive market.
That's because there's a sense that technology is catching fire really quickly in automotive design, and not just at the high end. But what does this mean along the supply chain? We know automotive electronics is a red-hot market right now, but the standards and the technology requirements are changing quickly.
On the Drive for Innovation, we wanted to check the pulse of this segment, so we punched in the latitude and longitude for Broadcom and headed there.
We convened a panel of automotive experts to get their perspective on what's going on in the industry. Two big takeaways on open standards:
- They are helping quicken the pace of automotive innovation.
- At the same time, they are giving OEMs and car manufacturers an opportunity to move their R&D dollars into new and exciting areas.
The 34-minute panel — featuring Ali Abaye, Richard Barrett, Yongbum Kim, and Tim Lau — is embedded below, but what follows in the text are some highlights with links to the segments within the videotaped panel where they expounded on an idea or question. The complete panel session is embedded below.
First off was our discussion of Ethernet, which is rapidly becoming the de facto networking backbone in automotive designs. This has implications not only for reducing cabling weight in an automotive design but allowing design engineers to leverage the standard to plug in Ethernet-ready services inside the car, according to Abaye (1:29 to 6:50), who is senior director of marketing and networking infrastructure.
The question arises, then, is this the type of solution, given the relative low cost of an established technology such as Ethernet, that might get proliferated quickly from high to low-end vehicles? (6:55)
We then asked Barrett, who is product marketing director for wireless connectivity in the automotive sector, what trends he was seeing. The biggie? Wireless LAN leveraging the smartphone as the control device, Barrett said (starts at 9:21 and runs to 14:42).
Driverless cars are getting a boost from Ethernet, but more so from wireless communications. You have microseconds improvement in the ability of a car to respond.
Passive to active safety
In fact, if you take into consideration that the automotive design cycle is five to seven years, engineers at this very moment are designing driverless car systems that will be introduced in model years at the end of the decade, according to Kim, who is senior technical director at Broadcom for automotive (17:00 to 20:00).
Lau, senior product line manager for automotive Ethernet, dove into existing designs that are happening now especially the shift from passive safety to active safety (20:01 to 21:25). In fact, at a higher level, the automotive industry is about to enter a period of explosive innovation, according to Lau (starts at 22:18).
Perhaps the biggest impact we will see in the coming years is how the adoption of technologies such as WiFi and Ethernet will free car makers to focus their R&D in other more pressing areas, Abaye said (starts at 26:24). But all this automotive electronics innovation may have a downside for drivers, according to Kim, who acknowledges that he loves to drive. He helped close our panel with a funny observation: (Starts at 32:31).
Here's the complete panel: