Automotive electronics is shaping the future of connected car technologies, especiallty in the areas of safety, convenience and automated driving. High-end electronic devices today cater to almost all aspects of vehicular development, and research is currently underway in other areas where OEMs and service providers see valid scope. NXP India Pvt Ltd has been a leading player in the areas of advanced automotive safety, in-vehicle network and secure car access technology. Auto Tech Review recently had the opportunity to visit NXP’s R&D centre in Noida to get a glimpse of its operations and innovations currently underway.
THE INDIA GROWTH STORY
NXP started its operations in India in 1990 with a mission of turning India into a centre of excellence in SoC Integration & IP design and has scaled new heights over the years. The company has become a vital part of the global network of design teams, which form the core of its business operations and is one of the largest design centres outside of Netherlands and US.
Subsequently, the company set up its product development units at Noida, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Within a decade these R&D centres were self-sufficient with a hi-tech lab and varied functional expertise in digital networking and software and integrated circuit(IC) design, including architecture design, IP development, SoC Design, verification, Functional and Analog validation and testing. The company’s ICs were manufactured across the world including, US, Europe, Singapore, China and Taiwan, while the final silicon validation was carried out in India.
To complete the loop, NXP added a customer solution centre that was directly supporting customers in meeting their end solutions. Thus, the Indian design centre is much more than a R&D centre and has been instrumental in revenue generation. The India design centre is involved in development of semiconductor hardware and software designs for the embedded market in various application segments like automotive, security & connectivity, digital networking and next generation technological departments.
EVOLUTION OF NXP
Over the years, NXP has played an active role in automotive designs. The company’s key forte lies in the automotive powertrain area, with focus on fuel economy and pollution control. As NXP grew in the automotive space, it emerged as a leader in body electronics, which includes side mirrors, wipers, automatic lighting, body applications such as door and window lift.
However, over the past decade, the game has changed from traditional applications to more modern applications, which have taken off with smartphones and other smart devices. “There is a desire among consumers to have a home-like comfort in their cars. This has led to the company expanding into the infotainment and telematics domains, which include automotive speedometer, electronic fuel control, GPS, audio video integration and Bluetooth, among others,” said Sanjay Gupta, Vice President & India Country Manager, NXP.
The team at the NXP India responsible for driving and delivering on the extreme mobile convergence (MXC) architecture, which has enabled customers to make the world's first voice call on a single core. Gupta said that this team has been a pioneer in developing cutting-edge networking and application chips for system design and validation.
The automotive team is one of the finest teams in areas of system IP, SoC, silicon validation, board design and enablement software, said Gupta. This team also creates customer solution centres, where concept reference design and enablement demos were created. The India design centre is consistently setting trends in the very-large scale integration (VLSI) arena through leading-edge process technologies, efficient design methodologies, creation of digital and mixed-signal IPs and an impressive portfolio of low-tier to high-tier processor cores through platforms like power architecture and ARM.
Given the growing demand for connected car technologies and autonomous vehicles, NXP has added a few more domains to its automobile architecture over the years. The connectivity domain includes V2X, while the driver replacement domain uses vision and radar. The R&D centre offers chipsets for artificial intelligence applications that will enable the vehicle to take autonomous decisions using data fusion capabilities. While the vehicle would be able to calculate the distance between itself and the vehicle in front of it, it will also detect blind spots and reverse car park, besides several other intelligent activities. “Today we have completely moved from mechanical powertrain applications to high end electronics with the driverless car and autonomous space,” added Gupta.
SAFETY CRITICAL PRODUCTION
The use of electronics in cars and its specific application areas are closely monitored by technology service providers and OEMs alike. All car makers, which NXP works with, have stringent inspection and validation procedures in place that ensure seamless integration of in-car electronics with the mechanical underpinnings, said Gupta.
This involves lab testing as well as field testing, which verify the technology under diverse operating conditions. It is important to ensure that even if a technology or application fails to deliver during a crisis, human life is not impacted. This involves passive safety features, which provide backup services, in case the primary features fail. While it is important to fuel advancements in car technology, maintaining a balance between a smart car and a safe car is a must and this is the direction research should progress today, stated Gupta.
DEVELOPMENT IN ADAS
No carmaker today can skip working on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Sensing the car’s environment is a key ingredient of ADAS and the self-driving car, an area where most European carmakers and technology developers are making heavy investments. It is important to ensure that each vehicle has the highest level of security against unwanted attacks, said Gupta. Thus, it has become crucial for electronics service providers to provide cars with state-of-art ‘eyes and ears’, and securely connect it internally and externally.
NXP currently offers both long and mid-range functionality automotive radar systems, which can constantly sense the distance between vehicles in real-time, improving driving efficiency and safety with enhanced collision-avoidance and emergency braking systems. The existing surround view camera systems make manoeuvring much easier and safer, but the vision systems can also enable features such as traffic sign recognition.
ADAS’ key components are radar systems that constantly sense the distance between vehicles in real-time, improving driving efficiency and safety. Automotive radar systems are used for early detection of potentially hazardous situations like collision detection, warning and mitigation, coupled with blind spot monitoring and detection. Lane change assistance and lane departure warning systems also form a part of this system and NXP offers scalable solutions to its customers depending on their individual requirements.
CONNECTED VEHICLES IN INDIA
A few OEMs and software solution providers have already announced plans to introduce connected car technologies in India in a few years. While the benefits, in terms of driver safety, are manifold, Gupta believes that the automotive industry still needs to work on rapidly developing new security and safety measures. NXP has been working with some of the world’s leading automakers to make vehicles smarter and to improve driving experience.
In order to address this predicament, NXP’s systems-level expertise, deep understanding of complex ADAS engineering challenges, and broad portfolio of NXP products meeting automotive-grade functional safety requirements, position it as the silicon provider of choice, capable of speeding up the readiness and availability of self-driving cars of tomorrow.
High-end automotive electronics currently finds maximum usage in powertrain development to enhance performance, improve fuel efficiency and thereby lower emission levels. With the advent of hybrid technology, the scope for electronics has gone beyond traditional powertrain requirements and more towards ensuring a harmony between the electric motor and the engine.
Body electronics has also witnessed significant improvements with the use of electronics. The multi-camera surround view and sense-park assist systems capture and display onscreen the area surrounding the car from a virtual 3D view. The perspective is dynamically moved depending on the trajectory of the car, providing a 360-degree view around the car. Gradually, as rear view sensors become mandatory in vehicles across segments, OEMs would require multiple camera and park assist options depending on their cost structure.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Connected cars are expected to provide seamless connectivity between different electronic systems such as infotainment, control systems, safety features and navigation features through internet within the car as well as with outside systems through the Internet of Things (IoT). The R&D centre has been designed to address future industry requirements in semiconductor and chipset development within the existing framework.
Global companies either have set-up their R&D facilities in India or have handed out major projects to Indian design services companies. This centre expects to provide local support for multinational contract manufacturing companies, setting up huge manufacturing facilities in India to fulfil the local market and export needs.
Advanced technologies would encourage collaborations between manufacturers of electronic devices used in cars, mobile devices, wearable devices, IT system integrators as well as ISPs. Therefore, connected cars will be instrumental in catalysing the envisaged smart transportation and smart infrastructure, leading to a further increase in economic activity in the automotive sector over the next decade, said Gupta.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley