Focus on car display connections

  • 01-May-2009 01:30 EDT
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Many more displays and cameras will need high-speed links in future vehicle generations.

­Chipmakers are betting that there are going to be more displays in the car as cameras and rear-seat entertainment gain market traction. Altera Corp. and National Semiconductor have teamed up to provide graphics interconnect solutions that offer high speeds over fairly long distances.

The collaboration leverages Altera's Cyclone III FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) and National's FPD-Link II embedded clock serializer/deserializer architecture, which provides high bandwidth, low electromagnetic interference, and low system costs. The two also developed a reference design showing that they can transmit digital over a 10-m (30-ft) CAT6 cable.

Distance is an important factor as more displays dot the car. Navigation, instrument clusters, and rear-seat entertainment are all gaining popularity, increasing the need for inexpensive data-transfer mechanisms.

“With this technology, you can connect two to four displays very cost-effectively,” said Dave Elliott, Senior Marketing Manager for Altera’s Automotive Business Unit.

FPD Link II moves data at up to 1.6 Gbit/s. Its bandwidth will be a critical factor if high-definition video moves into vehicles and systems send video to multiple users.

“High resolution is a necessity as standard-definition DVDs fall by the wayside,” Elliott said. “You also need a fair amount of bandwidth when you’re carrying audio and video to one kid who’s on the Internet and another who’s watching a movie."

National says FPD Link does not compete with conventional networks. “MOST and CAN are for control. We focus on high-speed data transfer, with throughput going up to the GHz range,” said Michael Hendricks, Marketing Manager for National Semiconductor’s high-speed data path products group.

FPD Link can also be used to connect cameras to displays. Many observers feel that today’s backup cameras will soon be augmented by a number of others including side mirrors and driver monitoring. That could help automakers meet fuel-economy requirements.

“You can replace side mirrors with cameras, which can bring a 1-3% improvement in fuel efficiency,” said Hendricks. “With FPD Link II, you can also reduce cabling and weight.”

Market researchers quantify the soaring expectations for displays. DisplaySearch predicts monitor installations will grow from 16.6 million units this year to 34.4 million units in 2015. Revenues of $1.03 billion now will rise to $1.56 billion in 2015, driven primarily by 7-in monitors.

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