With electronics taking over the control of almost all functions in a modern car, it becomes imperative to have efficient signal processing. This is where semiconductors come into play and will continue to gain importance as we head towards autonomous driving. In order to better understand this area and the potential, we interacted with Sivaramakrishnan S, Senior Engineering Manager, Analog Devices.
ROAD TO AUTONOMOUS DRIVING
Analog Devices was the pioneer in the use of MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) accelerometers in car airbags for safety. The company provides MEMS based accelerometers for crash sensing, stability and rollover protection using gyros. Sivaramakrishnan said it is presently working with multiple automotive suppliers and OEMs to implement and deploy a range of radar and vision-based Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in passenger vehicles.
Vision-based systems offer features such as lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, intelligent head lamp control, object detection/ classification, and pedestrian detection. Radar-based systems offer similar features with the addition of front/ rear park assist, forward collision warning, lane change assist, blind spot detection, collision mitigation braking systems and full speed range adaptive cruise control, he noted.
Talking of the unique offerings of the company's technology, Sivaramakrishnan said signal processing plays a major role by enabling new functionality and better performance. Apart from providing a wide range of products the company follows a zero-defect management system for its design and manufacturing processes. Analog Devices also complies with ISO 26262, a safety standard for electric and electronic systems.
The primary focus of Analog Devices is to build a complete system level solution addressing safety, comfort and greener automotive applications, said Sivaramakrishnan. In terms of safety, all major OEMs have introduced radar-based driver assistance systems globally. The company's expertise in base-band linear ICs is leveraged in India in designing low-cost, wide dynamic range, high accuracy and sensitivity front end parts. These attributes are used for realising radar signal chain for park assist, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and other safety applications.
Analog Devices has a broad IC-based technology portfolio for accelerometer and gyro-based vehicle dynamic control and accelerometer-based impact detection, which are primarily used in active and passive safety systems. The company also offers complete system solution for car audio amplifier application with a scalable processor family of products. Other areas of focus in the comfort segment include audio/ video connectivity and distribution inside the car, multi-zone audio decode and post processing, advanced multimedia connectivity and active noise cancellation techniques.
THE INDIAN CONNECT
The Indian market, despite presenting a huge opportunity, has some distinct challenges. A positive thing, Sivaramakrishnan noted is that some automotive technologies that were available only in the high-end of the spectrum are now migrating down to the mid and lower-end of the segment. That said, there are challenges as well, he noted. While seat belt is a regulation these days, the airbag is not. Indian customers are still choosing a car mostly based on the connectivity and audio, telematics options and fuel-efficiency and less for the safety of the car. Music system, fog lamps, mud flaps and even swanky alloy wheels are chosen over an airbag and ABS system, he said, highlighting the issue of education and regulation.
"In the next few years, we should see airbags migrate down to the lower-end of the spectrum along with anti-lock brakes. Mid to higher-end cars would have rear camera, parking assistance and possibly radar-based forward collision avoidance and pedestrian detection," he said.
Sivaramakrishnan foresees smart technologies playing a major role in driving the automotive segment to the next level of innovation. Electric vehicles will be the harbinger of a new revolution, he said. "We can expect better battery technology with faster charging to make EVs go more mainstream," he added. At the same time, user experience will be of prime focus. Applications that will ensure seamless integration and improved end user experience, high quality audio video transmission and distribution, improved safety such as proper warning system to reduce accidents and fatalities and technologies that will foster fuel-efficiency, will revolutionise the automotive segment in India, he said.
The current trend in the automotive sector is making cars greener, safer and more connected. Besides the primary drive motor, cars today are fitted with dedicated motor-control systems driving pumps, fans, compressors, actuators and controls of all types. On the connected vehicle front, it is the connected lifestyle coming into cars with better audio and video, seamless integration with smartphones, app stores, parking assists and even self-parking technologies.
Present vehicles have hundreds of sensors, which are monitoring the status of each and every system on a continuous basis. Going forward, the requirement and scope of such sensors is bound to grow further, augmenting a bright future for the technology and the company, Sivaramakrishnan concluded.
Text: Arpit Mahendra