Freescale, Bosch target airbags in emerging markets

  • 19-Sep-2011 11:32 EDT

A reference design aimed at emerging markets uses Freescale’s microcontrollers and an application specific standard part from Bosch.

Freescale Semiconductor and the Bosch Group have teamed up to focus on emerging markets. The two have designed an airbag reference platform that will help local suppliers in countries like China and India.

The partners each provide key components. Freescale’s Qorivva MPC560xP MCU works with the Bosch CG147 airbag family, which combines power, firing loop, sensor, and sophisticated safety modules on a single chip. Sensors from either company are also part of the platform, which can help regional automakers build a local infrastructure.

“These automakers could source from the companies that already make airbag controllers, but the locals like to source more ECUs locally. They’re already doing that for some body control applications,” said Marc Osajda of Freescale’s global automotive marketing team.

The pact puts the two component suppliers in a fledgling segment within these emerging markets. Airbags are not mandatory in India or China, but governmental agencies seem likely to require them, Osajda said. A World Health Organization report found that around half of the 1.2 million people killed on roads annually occur in developing countries. Strategy Analytics predicts that the market for airbag electronics fitted to vehicles produced in India and China will more than double by 2015, exceeding $1.2 billion.

Osajda noted that electronic-system suppliers in the region should be able to enter the market fairly quickly. “The Chinese suppliers could have an advantage in time-to-market; they can go up the learning curve pretty quickly,” Osajda said

Some of these suppliers entered the market with body control systems, which don’t require the same levels of speed or fault tolerance. Regional system suppliers are also targeting other applications as part of efforts to build a local infrastructure with support from governments and automotive OEMs.

“Electric power steering is probably something that could come on quickly in China; it’s good for reducing fuel consumption in small cars. The Chinese have good knowledge building motors and controllers from their industrial work,” Osajda said.

At the outset of the predicted push for more safety, most regionally produced airbags will likely be fairly rudimentary. The Freescale-Bosch reference platform is scalable, going from basic single-airbag systems to more complex schemes with multiple airbags, but early generation vehicles aimed at entry-level buyers will have fairly simple systems.

“There will probably be a gap between Chinese and Indian airbags and European airbags. European suppliers will focus on higher end systems,” Osajda said.

That’s partly because these regional airbag developers will have to write their own software. The reference design includes some interface software, but it does not include programs that tell the airbag when to fire.

“There is know-how on the crash algorithm side that the Chinese and Indians will have to develop,” Osajda said.

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