Get on the fast-track to automotive system innovation with Texas Instruments

Texas InstrumentsBy Heinz-Peter Beckemeyer, Director, Automotive Systems Texas Instruments

How long before such vehicles are widely available is much debated, but both car manufacturers and technology suppliers are committed to making self-driving cars happen.

It’s probable that in your lifetime, you will drive or ride in a self-driving car. This car will almost certainly be loaded with electronic conveniences and safety devices to make your trip enjoyable, and it may well be an electric vehicle (EV).

Self-driving electric cars merge two complementary technical developments with a lot of momentum behind them: autonomous operation and an afford- able EV with fast recharging and an extensive range. When you add in the ongoing trend to use advanced electronics to make traveling safer, more comfortable and connected, the result will be a revolution in trans- portation in just a few design generations.

It is easy to view self-driving EVs as the all-encom- passing dream – the pinnacle of the automotive market. However, those involved in vehicle manufac- turing know this dream is only possible via many small steps in technology development. Automated driving depends on scores of electronic systems for sensing, communication and control throughout the vehicle.

Electronic systems throughout the vehicle control the motor, powertrain, steering and suspension, as well as operating the dashboard instrumentation, navigation, entertainment consoles and speakers, cabin and exterior lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), automatic seats, windows and mirrors. Advanced electronics save weight, improve operation, increase energy efficiency and make cars safer, more comfortable and convenient. They are also essential to the gradual introduction of autonomous driving, the change from combustion to electric propulsion and the ongoing improvements to the travel experience.

The varied transportation market

The worldwide production of cars and light trucks – more than 93 million units in 2016 – should exceed 105 million units in 2021, according to LMC Automotive. Today, market analyst rm Strategy Analytics says the average automobile contains about $324 worth of semiconductor components, pushing beyond $361 in 2021. A steady increase in electronic systems and components represents the fastest-growing automotive parts segment. While new feature introductions rst appear in premium automobiles, they tend to migrate in a few design cycles toward mid-sized and then economy vehicles. In some cases, legislation or regulations speed up the technology dispersal to promote safety, energy economy or reduced emissions.

Figure 1. As global vehicle production and more electronic systems are added to vehicles, the average amount of semiconductor content per vehicle will steadily increase.

Figure 1.
As global vehicle production and more electronic systems are added to vehicles, the average amount of semiconductor content per vehicle will steadily increase.

Although cars, SUVs and pickup trucks make up the vast majority of the transportation market and thus tend to drive innovation, other forms of transportation require advanced electronic technology as well. These include industrial transportation and personal, recreational, and other heavy vehicles such as commercial trucks, motorcycles, buses, construction and farm equipment. Innovative technology tends to migrate from the automotive sector to these other transportation areas, but in some cases the ow can work in reverse.

Transportation also goes beyond vehicles – to roadways, parking lots, conventional service stations and recharging stations for the EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) that are becoming more common. Starting with expressways and major intersections, monitoring sensors and cameras are appearing on city roads, along with communications via the cloud to control stations and eventually the vehicles themselves. These environmental changes will affect driving habits, and automakers will need to accommodate consumer expectations with the design of their products. Because semiconductor manufacturers like Texas Instruments (TI) supply technology for a variety of transportation types and infrastructures, the company is in a good position to help automakers harmonize their design efforts with developments in the larger transportation environment.

The driving forces in the automotive market

Automated driving and vehicle electric cation are both multistage and multi-generational. To track developments in automated driving, SAE International created the J3016 standard to de ne ve levels ranging from none at all (level 0) to fully self-driving (level 5), with different degrees of nonhuman control in between. Many features in the lower levels have already appeared in production vehicles, including dynamic stability control (level 1), adaptive cruise control and lane keeping (level 2), while limited self-driving for situations such as automated parking or driver incapacitation in emergencies (level 3) is on the horizon.

Along with advanced information and warning features, these driving aids are collectively known as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and they promote safety and convenience. The success of ADAS is extremely important to the automotive industry; according to Strategy Analytics, these systems will grow to an estimated market of more than $37 billion by 2021.

Table 1. The six types of vehicles with varying degrees of electri cation.

Table 1.
The six types of vehicles with varying degrees of electri cation.

Informational ADAS, such as rear-view or surround- view camera systems with displays, provide drivers with a better eld of view and allow them to see into blind spots. Machine vision-based systems process information from a variety of sensors to identify objects and dangerous environments surrounding a vehicle, and warn the driver with visual, haptic or acoustic signals. ADAS takes it step further and can perform simple maneuvers for the driver, like steering the vehicle back into the center of the lane or completely stopping the car if a pedestrian steps in front of it. For highly automated and fully automated systems in a vehicle (also called self-driving cars), many sensors and subsystems will have to work together to transmit, combine and process all available information (also called sensor fusion) in real-time. This can make decisions not only to affect steering, acceleration and braking, but also route planning.

Vehicle electri cation has similar levels of limited to fully electric operation, giving consumers a selection as they become  accustomed to the technology. Generally, the automotive industry distinguishes the EV categories listed in Table 1. Each category includes the features in those above it, and each in turn saves an increased amount of combustible fuel. Of those listed, mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids are predicted to be the fastest- growing categories in the next few years.

Vehicle electri cation through these stages complements the development of automated driving because…

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Source: USDOT