Active safety will continue to drive the need for faster processors and more affordable memories, Delphi Automotive chief technology officer Jeff Owens told Design News Radio recently.
Owens, an auto industry veteran who heads a staff of 17,000 technologists at Delphi, said the automotive industry is looking to a new generation of electronic components to meet the needs of so-called active safety systems, which can prevent accidents. "The cost-benefit to this technology is significant," Owens said. "We think it's the next big step to having that curve of fatalities drop downhill."
Active safety systems, which can take control of a vehicle's brakes or steering, are built atop many of the same processing innovations (microcontrollers and memories) that have served as the foundation of the passive safety revolution. "That's been the breakthrough that has allowed many new safety loops in the vehicle, for driver and passenger bags, as well as for rollover, side curtain bags, knee bolsters, and rear bags," Owens said. "It's all been enabled by the capabilities of electronics and faster processing technologies."
However, he also said the annual fatality figure of 33,000 may be reaching a plateau. That's why the industry needs to begin the transition from passive to active safety.
"We need the ability to see the accident before it occurs and have the vehicle take some kind of mitigating action," he said. "Putting on the brakes, maybe even going into a full panic stop -- those are the kinds of things that would eliminate or at least reduce the impact of a collision."
Fuel efficiency laws, such as the 54.5mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate, will also have a profound effect on the automotive semiconductor market, according to Owens. Technologies such as gasoline direct injection, turbocharging, and nine-speed transmission designs will also drive the need for automotive electronics. Such systems need better electronics to run the software algorithms, sense important events, and meet tighter time constraints.
"Faster processors and more affordable memories open up many doors and windows into automotive electronics," he said. "When the processing power is available, it will be used."
Listen to the Design News Radio Internet broadcast of Owens' interview.