The importance of electronics to the future of the automobile hit home this year at the Convergence 2006 Conference and Exhibition at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, as engineers discussed topics ranging from telematics to advanced propulsion to safety systems. Virtually every area of the vehicles was poked and prodded, from intelligent tires to smart mirrors. The event, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), drew more than 8,000 attendees and 180 exhibitors, and focused on the “reinvention of the automobile.” Keynote speakers included General Motors’ CEO Rick Waggoner, bestselling author Frans Johannson and Hitachi President Kazuo Furukawa. Exhibitors included such automotive supply giants as Bosch, Siemens VDO, Delphi, Continental Teves, Hitachi, Infineon, Texas Instruments, Freescale, Fujitsu and NEC Electronics.
More Computing Power for Instrument Clusters
Texas Instruments added to its 32-bit TMS470 microcontroller family, rolling out new devices for instrument cluster host controller applications. The new microcontrollers are targeted at clusters that incorporate highly integrated displays with high-performance graphics, such as real-time navigation and rear park assist cameras. TI’s new TMS470PLFx MCUs, for example, can directly drive small segment LCDs through embedded 128-segment LCD controllers, while the use of peripheral modules, such as the high-end timer, direct memory access controller and multi-buffered SPI allow them to drive other types of digital displays. The new devices are also tightly coupled with TI’s OMAP processors and DaVinci for high-performance LCDs and TFT displays.
Graphics Controller for 3D Navigation
Fujitsu Microelectronics America rolled out its newest graphics display controller for in-vehicle navigation. Known as the MB86297, it’s optimized for high-end multimedia and virtual dashboard applications. It supports all 3D functions, including fogging and lighting, to provide dramatic 3D effects for navigation systems. It enables point-of-view and bird’s-eye navigation to be rendered rapidly, while producing images that reportedly match those of desktop systems. Maximum power consumption is less than 2.3W, and it delivers five times more performance than its predecessor chip.
A Boost for Body Electronics
Also at Convergence, Freescale rolled out a dual-core, 32-bit microcontroller family designed to enhance power, performance and flexibility of automotive body electronics. Known as the MPC5510 family, the new design reportedly can help reduce the number of modules in the cockpit area through higher integration of gateway and body electronics functions, such as seat and mirror control systems, tire pressure monitoring and remote keyless entry. The family scales up from single-core microcontrollers to 80-MHz dual-core devices with 1 MByte of Flash and advanced communication peripherals.