Get Your Motor Running: AEC-Q100 automotive grade drivers

In my frequent travels, I get to “test drive” a lot of rental cars.  And to be honest, until recently I was the type of person to drive a car until the wheels fall off. Well I have to hand it to the boys in Detroit, they’ve finally figured out a way to get even me to buy a new car – the massive electrification of the automobile.  

Cars today have so many cool electronic features, such as sync support for your smart phone, in-cabin infotainment systems, blind spot detection,  adaptive front lighting, memory position seating, and active cabin noise suppression, just to name a few.  All of these cool features got me to thinking about what it takes to get an integrated circuit (IC) designed into an automotive application.

Turns out, it has to be AEC-Q100 qualified.  AEC stands for Automotive Electronics Council and is a JEDEC spinoff whose focus is to define automotive-grade device requirements. There are numerous detailed specs to meet, but let’s see if we can’t break down at a high level what Q100 qualified means.

AEC-Q100 starts by defining five different temperature grades that specify the ambient operating temperature range for a given device. For example, Grade 1 is pretty common for in-cabin applications and specifies that the device can operate in an ambient of -40°C to +125°C (40°F below zero to +257°F). In addition, the device’s electrical specs are typically specified over this operating range.  For some non-automotive devices, this is not the case as their parameters may only be specified at room temperature.   If you check out the DRV8801-Q1 brushed DC motor driver data sheet, you will see that the electrical characteristics table has a note at the top stating the parameters are specified over the entire Grade 1 operating range. 

Another key AEC-Q100 compliance requirement is related to how the device is qualified for production. Before any IC is released to production, it must pass a series of electrical, lifetime and reliability stress tests. For an automotive qualified IC, the tests are much stricter than those of an industrial or commercial IC.  The temperature grade again comes into play here, as different temperature grades have different qual requirements, with Grade 0 (-40°C to +150°C) the most stringent and needed for power train / under the hood applications. These stringent qualification tests ensure reliable operation and long lifetimes in the harsh automotive environment.  And Q100 applications aren’t just limited to the automotive market anymore as I am seeing more and more industrial customers select Q100 qualified parts over standard industrial grade due to the more rigorous testing.

Device manufacturing and design change notifications are also handled differently. With an automotive grade device, the re-qualification and change notification requirements are much stricter than with industrial or commercial devices. For example, many minor process changes performed on industrial devices do not require customer notification or re-qualification of the device, but in automotive they do.

Sometimes there are exceptions to AEC-Q100 specs which are perfectly acceptable depending on the customer or application.  These exceptions, along with a list of all qualification tests performed on the device can be found in the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) documentation.  For example, one common exception is ESD performance.  AEC-Q100 requires the device withstand 2000 V Human Body Model (HBM) and a Charge Device Model (CDM) of 750 V on corner pins and 500 V all other pins.  To find the ESD specs, refer to the device’s data sheet.  For example, the datasheet for the DRV8832-Q1  a 1A brushed DC motor driver, lists the ESD specs on the front page. The ESD specs are listed based on the AEC-Q100 classification codes which are listed in the below tables.  


Note:  Minimum AEC-Q100 spec requirements are H1A (HBM) and C4B (CDM)

In summary, there is a lot that goes into making an automotive grade IC. So next time you are in a new car that is totally decked out with electronics, take a minute to think about all the engineering that goes into bringing those electronics to life.

For more info on motor drivers, check out my Engineer It videos on “How to select a pre-driver vs. an integrated motor driver” or “Understanding basic BLDC operation.” You can always ask me a question in the comment section or visit TI’s Motor Driver Forum or Automotive Forum to ask the experts or share your experience.  

I also want to encourage you to visit our Automotive blog called “Behind the Wheel” to find out how TI is engineering the future of automotive.  

  • Hello Michael,

    For a Commercial Grade Semiconductor Process Node based design [may be Microcontroller], what are the big item changes at high level those are needed within the design of Die to qualify for AEC-Q100 Grade 0?

    Some rationale and corresponding changes in the Semiconductor Process for the Die will be helpful for my understanding.