Other semiconductor makers are rolling out similar solutions. Late last year, Renesas Electronics introduced its RH850 32-bit RISC MCUs, which incorporate up to 8 MB of Flash memory. It also rolled out the RZ family of ARM-based microprocessors, aimed at applications requiring up to 300 MHz of performance.
For end node communication, Freescale also recently unveiled its S12 MagniV microcontroller portfolio. MagniV is targeted at the end nodes on LIN body networks (which handle doors, windows, and lighting), as well as CAN networks (which control onboard diagnostics and powertrain). Freescale says the new MagniV family will enable automotive engineers to use fewer components and cut board sizes at the end nodes, possibly removing as much as 20 pounds of copper wiring from vehicles.
To be sure, the auto industry still has a major challenge in its ongoing electronic clean-up efforts. Vehicles use MCUs in virtually every major auto system, ranging from engines and transmissions to air bags and instrument clusters. Moreover, the list is growing, as processors migrate out to ignitions, horns, phones, headlights, heaters, seat motors, turn signals, dome lights, DVD players, window lifts, navigation products, power steering systems, and tire pressure management devices, to name just a few.
But suppliers believe that the latest generation of their MCUs can make in-roads. “There’s a way to reduce the number of modules and gateways,” Loane told us. “Hypothetically, if we could get it down to a single module that integrates all the functionality, that would be ideal.”
Yes, it's interesting that a lot of industries follow the same rule in this regard, especially in the beginning of introducing new technologies, when complexity grows quite quickly and innovation can't really keep up with it. And as you mentioned, it's when complexity slows down that people can take a step back and see what's been created and try to come up with a better way to do than simply building on top of what already is there.
Yes, William K, I think that wouldn't be such a great idea, either, to have a single master controller. But I can see how this might be one direction the industry might head, having seen examples in other industries with other technologies. Or maybe the idea would be vetoed from the beginning since engineers would anticipate what a disaster it would be, as you describe!
Elizabeth, It is probably correct that things will move in that direction unless something changes to make it more expensive than some other approach. What might be effective would be a boycot of vehicles that were excessivly expensive to repair, or, better yet, a mandatory ten year warranty on vehicular comtrol modules. A law like that could also, possibly, improve quality. But it is far more likely that it will simply mean that vehicles will be scrapped much sooner, since replacing that VERY EXPENSIVE module might nit make economic sense for an eight year old vehicle. But how will it be rationalized for those long-life-still-pricey battery electric cars?
Of course it could also create a whole new industry that produced custom modules for cars, which could offer the benefit of allowing the owners to have completely different software that ignored all government mandated functions. That could be an unanticipated benefit.
Cabe, completely aside from the use of a single chip there exists that reality of the amount of external I/O that is needed for the automotive application. The car-body environment is a good example of the real world in that most of the inputs and outputs connect to real things, not to display screens and touch panels. A single module would put all of that I/O in one box as well, and that one box would only be serviced as an assembly. THAT is the other reason for believing that it would benefit nothing except possibly the makers bottom line.
A ten year warranty would be a good start towards making a single module realization somewhat acceptable, but it would need to be far more inclusive than the warranties that I am familiar with. As far as making the chip "reliable enough", there would need to be 100% testing done at least twice in the prodduction process. Once at chip level and then again at the completed moddule level.
I have to admit, Cabe, I don't know if I would ever have confidence in the arrival of a single-controller design. Even if we could do it with today's electronic complexity, what would we do in the future? Remember, active safety systems are on their way. Adaptive cruise is here; so is lanekeeping. To a small degree, collision avoidance is already here, too. At some point, most vehicles will begin to incorporate all those features. A few years ago, autonomous vehicles had their trunks packed with multiple computers. Rear seats were packed, too. Designers of those vhicles referred to them as "supercomputers on wheels." So my point is, even if we could get down to a single-module design today, the automotive community would just start incorporating all the active safety systems, and we'd be doing the same process all over again.
One more point about the constant addition of features that serve mostly as profit sources for those who sell them. The wiring will kieep getting more complex, either because all of the wires now run to one module, or because those wires are distributed between about 250 individual modules. Either choice will reduce reliability and make servicing a vehicle a financial disaster. One alternative is the use of some kind of bus structure, which it has been shown that a bus won't be accepted in cars because the cost in both dollars and failures is far greater than the benefits.
So the sensible solution is to STOP ADDING FEATURES! We simply don't need them, and the very small minority of drivers who would benefit from those features should simply not be accomodated by the OEMs. Few enough folks need those features so that they could easily be added by the aftermarket folks. THAT would offer a benefit to a lot of value-added companies, and not force the rest of us to purchase expensive systems that are primarily designed to compensate for the errors made by 17-year-olds driving. The rest of us can think well enough to not need those features.
I am starting to lean toward William K's thoughts, stop adding features. The statement of 1 year olds distracted is what got me. I see them already, texting and driving. So, why add more to the fray. But that is new HMIs.
As for a single chip to drive it all... I am still think eggs in one basket applies here.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.