Airbag designs are well understood in many regions, but they are still an exotic new technology in emerging markets. Analog Devices Inc. and Infineon Technologies are teaming up to change that, partnering to provide more turnkey safety systems.
ADI currently provides safety suppliers with accelerometers and DSP (digital signal processing) devices, while Infineon makes most of the other devices needed for airbag systems. Offerings from Infineon, ranked second in automotive semiconductors by Strategy Analytics, include microcontrollers, satellite sensor interface ICs, power supply components, and networking transceivers.
The two companies feel that providing reference designs and a full suite of compatible products will gain them an edge in countries where these passive safety systems are still fairly rare. Many of the local suppliers in these regions have not designed real-time, high-reliability systems before.
“As developing countries emerge in China and India, many don’t have the expertise or wherewithal to develop airbag systems,” said Rich Mannherz, Business Director, Product Line Director for Analog Devices Automotive and Micromachined Product Division. “They’re looking for greater support from their suppliers.”
Though start-ups in those regions may benefit most, the partners noted that more established companies should be able to complete design more quickly by using compatible parts from them.
“Start-ups that cater to OEM start-ups in emerging markets will benefit from the reference design, and more experienced companies will gain assurance that all the parts fit together,” said Jeffrey Cubel, Segment Marketing Manager for Infineon Technologies’ Automotive Power Group.
Emerging economies represent a growth market for some systems considered commodities in U.S. and European markets. Safety has not been an important aspect in some first-generation designs in emerging markets, but it is gaining popularity as buyers seek more sophisticated vehicles.
“The penetration of airbags in emerging markets is fairly low, but that’s changing rapidly,” Cubel said. “When you add in that these markets are growing faster, that’s a big opportunity.”
ADI and Infineon are also focusing on standardization as a way to reduce costs and shorten time to market. They are promoting standards that are starting to displace proprietary interfaces in mainstream automotive markets.
“In the past, many of the OEMs have used their own protocols. Now many of them are moving to Peripheral Sensor Interface 5,” Mannherz said.