Future cars – Not so far away!


I must confess… I am a car buff. But I’m not into just any cars. I prefer cars that are technologically advanced. I’ve been fascinated by advancements in transportation since I was a kid (see one of my previous posts “It’s Almost 2010… Where’s My Flying Car.”) However, with advancements in semiconductor technology, many of the capabilities of those spectacular futuristic vehicles are not so far away! In fact, many are already here with more coming in the next few model years. 

There are three major areas driving this (no pun intended) – first, is safety.  Statistically, the more vehicles you place on a highway, the higher the odds of being involved in a traffic incident. Traditionally passive safety was the answer. Examples include seat belts, crumple zones, side beams, reinforced passenger compartments and more. If you’re anything like me, you’d rather never require passive safety if you can avoid it… but it’s nice to know the technology is there when everything else fails. Better yet, I’d rather employ active safety, or the ability of the car to help me avoid an accident.

Analog technology enables the car of the future

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Recently, active safety is expanding beyond anti-lock brakes (which can now be done with a single device such as the TPIC7218-Q1) to include auto braking, active radar for collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control.  This is all done through advanced signal processing (which TI pioneered) and high levels of integration found in devices such as the TPS65310A-Q1, which is designed to power DSPs in harsh automotive environments.

Beyond safety there is convenience and driver assistance – the things that make driving easier. For example, the wheels of my personal car have suffered the indignity of curb rash from my inability to see where the car was in relationship to the parking space. Having 360 degree cameras (that interface to the electronic control unit through the DS90UB913Q/4Q-Q1) along with puddle cameras that look down alongside the car would have saved me the sanding and repainting expense!

Another method is to use ultrasonic sensors to detect curbs, other cars, as well as surrounding objects – again, devices such as the PGA450-Q1 integrate most of the sensor conditioning functionality. This can enable other cool technologies such as self-parking cars, which would completely save me (and my wheels) from my lack of parallel parking ability.

Last but seriously not least is the cockpit… this is where the WOW factor comes in. I’m waiting for the arrival of the virtual soft dashboard – a high definition display that loses the mechanical dials and provides information in the most appealing (and least distracting) way. It will include touch with feedback (see the DRV2605 or DRV2667 haptic drivers) or use gesture recognition to limit the driver’s distractions. Information can be dynamic and change with the conditions of the road or traffic.

Yes, my flying car is bit farther in the future, but the technologies to enhance safety, convenience and driver assistance… or just plain fun are right around the corner. So if you think future cars were just from the minds of Syd Mead and other visionaries, just wander down to your local dealer and take a peek at the future! Till next time…

To see more on TI’s automotive technologies, check out a video on the car of the future. Or, if you’re interested in reading more about the car of the future check out “Powering the car of the future” on Power House or “How analog is enabling the car of the future” on Behind the Wheel.