Connectivity key to automotive future

  • 15-Oct-2013 09:37 EDT

Evolving communication and connectivity electronics, such as these technologies provided by NXP Semiconductor, will drive future innovation in the automotive world.

“Ninety percent of all automotive innovations are enabled by electronics,” said Drue Freeman, Senior VP Global Automotive Sales and Marketing for NXP Semiconductors. “This makes semiconductors a critical success factor for automakers.”

He cited four megatrends specifically affecting semiconductors supporting this assertion. One is the drive for energy efficiency, followed closely by the increasingly connected car for entertainment and intelligent traffic management. The drive for both increased security and safety are the other megatrends shaping the automotive industry, providing opportunity for semiconductor providers, according to Freeman.

To varying degrees, the response to all these trends is in increasing connectivity. “It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 25 to 50 billion unique [devices] connected to the Internet,” said Freeman. “Approximately, 10% of those will be related to automotive in some way.”

While the ultimate end game may be fully autonomous cars, cars will grow in capability as the industry builds toward that end. Assisted driving has already made its debut, and by 2015, we may well see autopilot under limited conditions, such as highway driving, according to Freeman.

V2I and V2V functionality will require more electronics, as might services such as pay-as-you-drive car insurance or the emerging car-sharing business models that might become popular in urban areas. “Advanced driver assistant systems (ADASs) in new cars will grow from 6% today to 50+% in 2020,” he stated.

With its emphasis on connectivity technologies, NXP is well positioned to respond to these challenges, according to Freeman. Innovations include software defined radio chips to reduce both hardware R&D costs and lean-out logistics and assembly complexity. NXP also invested in Cohda Wireless, a leader in advancing Car2X communications based on the IEEE 802.11p communications standard, according to Freeman.

“These run on our software defined radios,” he said, since the hardware technology for radio and high-speed wireless is the same. He noted these have been tested in field trials conducted by the U.S. DOT and in Singapore, Germany, and France.

They are also innovating internal communications inside the car, with high bandwidth bus technologies such as FlexRay and Ethernet.

“We were the first automotive semiconductor company to license BroadR-Reach technology from Broadcomm,” he said. NXP announced in a September press release that it was working with TTTech to develop jointly automotive Ethernet switch solutions supporting the BroadR-Reach standard. He also noted their delivery of innovations such as CAN FD with data rates greater than 2 Mbps, compared to CAN with a 1 Mbps, among many others.

Freeman was careful to note there are cautions for developers as the industry develops nifty advanced capabilities such as autonomous driving. “Liability is one of the biggest uncertainties,” he related in an interview with AEI. “If you have autonomous driving and there is an accident, is the driver at fault? Is the car company going to have to pay for that? Or, is it the Tier 1, Tier 2, or software company [that is] liable, he asked rhetorically. “These issues need to be addressed.”

Another point he made to AEI is that while many of these technologies already exist, automakers need to invest to bring them to reality. “While the economic benefit from that investment is spread across society,” he said, higher safety ratings from various agencies may help spur faster investment, for example.

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