Analog drives automotive solutions

Welcome back once again! My last post honed in on some of the latest innovations in the industrial segment. Check it out here. In today’s post I want to take a closer look at the automotive industry where we are seeing very cool developments taking place.

 Infotainment systems

 Shifts in consumer expectations are among the most dynamic changes in today’s automotive market. What do you look for when you are buying a new car? In previous generations young car buyers cared most about the speed and look of their vehicles. Today, it’s a very different story. These buyers want to stay every bit as connected behind the wheel as they are elsewhere. This shift in mindset is driving automobile manufacturers to create complex infotainment systems that look and behave much like tablet computers we use every day. Check out this complete system block diagram that shows what’s involved with creating an infotainment system:

Customers are re-defining automotive infotainment using TI solutions, paving the way for an unparalleled in-vehicle experience with entertainment and telematics functionality.

Start-stop capability

Another clever automotive feature is the start-stop capability. A gasoline-powered engine automatically shuts off when it comes to a stop, and then restarts when the driver presses the accelerator. This innovation actually reduces fuel consumption by at least 10 percent. And with the ever-increasing cost of fuel, every penny counts! While it may sound simple, the technology behind it is quite complex. As summer temperatures soar and we get stuck in traffic, we need sensors to tell the air-conditioning compressors to keep blowing cold air on us. Given that the engine belt is stopped, the compressor motors need to be electrically driven. That capability requires FETs, motor-control chips, microcontrollers and communication chips.

Active safety and advanced driver assistance

Imagine a world where cars automatically correct mistakes made by the driver, eliminating avoidable accidents. These are now becoming a reality! Active safety is a very exciting opportunity in the automotive segment. When we drive at highway speeds today, we trust that other drivers just a few meters away are competent behind the wheel. That’s not always the case. Imagine technology-based safety mechanisms that, for example, apply the brakes before an imminent collision. Those types of technologies are available in some cars today, and manufacturers will increasingly include more advanced safety features in the future.

Automotive vision control

Automotive vision control systems process digital information from sources like digital cameras, LIDAR (light distance and range), radar and other sensors to perform tasks like lane departure warning, blind spot detection or parking assistance. The processed information can be displayed on screens or announced via acoustical warning signals, or with haptic feedback such as a vibrating steering wheel. These systems include power supplies to regulate to voltages for digital signal processors (DSPs); microcontrollers to handle system control functions and communication with other modules in the car; and communication interfaces to exchange data between independent electronic modules in the car. Check out our video on how rear-view cameras are quickly becoming an integral part of driver-assistance systems

Car black box

We hear so much about the black boxes being used in airplanes and how invaluable is the data they collect. This same concept is now being applied to automobiles. Car black boxes, using digital video recorders, monitor and record activities in or outside the car in a panoramic fashion using its front, rear and optional side cameras. Videos can be stored on a local disk and viewed on the car’s display monitor, or streamed remotely using a wireless connection. The next time you find yourself saying it wasn’t your fault at the scene or in court, you could have the data to back up your story!

These are just some of the advancements being made available to car manufacturers as they roll their new designs. And many more are to come. If consumers want it, there’s a good chance it will become a reality!

We’ve covered several different technologies and will touch on health technology in my next post. Now it’s time to hear from you!

Of all these innovations, which of the following do you see as having the greatest impact over the next 10 years?

1.    Cars automatically correct mistakes made by the driver, eliminating avoidable accidents.

2.    Factory production lines continually operate because equipment diagnoses itself through smart sensors prior to a failure, avoiding costly downtime.

3.    Implanted medical devices continually charge themselves, avoiding replacement.

4.    Ability to monitor residential connected alarm systems through portable devices, receiving notifications when something at home needs attention.

5.    A gasoline-powered engine automatically shuts off when stopped, then restarts when the driver presses the accelerator, reducing fuel consumption.

6.     Can you think of other possibilities?

Please post your response in the comments section. Once we receive your input we’ll create a recap to share the community’s feedback on how you want engineering to shape the future.

What’s that? You say you haven’t had a chance yet to check out my previous posts! You can find them here:

Engineering the world through Analog

Analog and the new industrial revolution