Take an ECG sensor, install it in a car and you get a fatigue-warning solution - in addition to the medical heart monitor that's still working. That's what British Plessey Semiconductor has developed using a sensor solution that doesn't require the eleborate wiring known from the doctor's office.
For a few years now, »cloud« is THE common buzzword. It's being employed so inflationary that it's even used as a synonym for »internet«. Kontron's new vehicle computers seem to be victims of this misunderstanding since they are supposed to »bring buses, commercial vehicles and mobile machinery to the cloud«. Well, the internet actually, but they are interesting pieces of technology.
Over the last years, Cadence has sponsored several student design contests. This year, Diploma, Bachelor, and Master Contestants are challenged to create a virtual platform (VP) of an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) for e. g. Body, Chassis, Engine, Powertrain, Driver Assistance or Infotainment, by modeling the hardware at a higher abstraction level using SystemC. CPU, memory, interfaces, and the bus should be part of the VP.
At first, the simple car radio with tape deck evolved into a CD player with surround sound system, then it accepted USB sticks and today it's difficult to distinguish the navigation system from the FM tuner - assuming there is a distinction to be made. However, modern smartphones can do, apart from their main functions, practically everything these in-car systems can, most things even better. Since crutches like Bluetooth links usually are a nuisance, there has to be a better way to integrate consumer electronics into car infotainment systems.
In modern automotive systems, various bus systems, rigid safety demands and the need for high performance at low power have to be balanced. While there are many specialized automotive chips like microcontrollers and SoCs around, this is an area where the general trend towards higher integration finally makes sense.
In terms of software development, AUTOSAR sets rather good practices. Actually, it has a few advantages over general purpose SW development standards with its coverage of the full development cycle easily the most important. Unfortunately, the AUTOSAR development partnership isn’t too fond of allowing the software architecture outside of the automotive market. Now, they start opening up. A bit.
The ISO 26262 functional safety standard for road vehicles poses various problems for component manufacturers as well as for system integrators. Luckily, not all control units in a car are that safety critical, but the ones that need to comply require extensive checking and testing during all stages of product development.
Among the most critical points in automotive electronics are intersections of different bus systems. Those areas need to be designed and tested thoroughly – and it’s a bonus when the development device can be used in all stages, even in production.
In times of growing euro-scepticism the engineering community demonstrates the benefits of cooperation in the union. The recently completed EU FP7 project »ATHENIS« (Automotive Tested High Voltage Embedded Non Volatile Memory Integrated System On Chip) is a successful example of collaborative European Research contributing to the EU 2020 CO2 reduction objectives with IC products manufactured in Europe.