GARY MACDONALD,
Automotive Strategic Marketing Manager,
Dialog Semiconductor,
www.dialog-semiconductor.com

 

 

Dialog_Connected Car Diagram

 

 

Whether it’s navigating to a friend’s new house, listening
to our favorite music or talking hands-free, our vehicles and the technology we
use to make our lives easier are becoming more intertwined. In addition to
entertainment and convenience, we also rely on the vehicles technology to
monitor and warn us of anything requiring attention, assist us to park, and
automatically open the trunk when our hands are full with groceries. Many of us
take these features for granted, but underlying them is a highly complex
combination of electronics, software and computing power. This increased
sophistication and integration of technologies within our vehicles requires
correspondingly advanced and efficient power management solutions.

 

The automotive industry has always been at the forefront of innovative
transportation solutions, but modern carmakers are embracing technologies that
go well beyond simply improving ride quality or fuel emissions. In recognizing
how connectivity is changing the consumer-facing products and services in
nearly every industry vertical, automakers are reaching across sectors and
vendors to help integrate a wealth of connected devices into new cars to
realize improvements in communications, entertainment, driver assistance and
safety.

 

While many of these features are familiar to drivers today –
such as infotainment systems and GPS navigation consoles, just to name a few –
even existing technology is going to be superseded by some of the automotive
innovation soon to hit the streets. Although self-driving cars may still be a
few years away, there will be a greater degree of intelligence and even
autonomy within each vehicle in the near term that will be able to help make
important decisions for drivers.

 

Many
vehicles are already capable of improving safety by braking for drivers, or
even assisting with control of the steering wheel during lane departure
scenarios. However as cars move to become fully-autonomous, the energy required
to power these functions has already become a significant challenge for vehicle
manufacturers and their suppliers.

 

What’s helping fuel this new relationship between car and
driver are significant advances in processing power offered by highly
integrated microprocessors and SoCs that are optimized for automotive use.
These extremely complex ICs are designed to bridge communication between the
various different devices within the vehicle, as well as with other cars
sharing the road, and comprise increasing numbers of power hungry processing
cores.

 

Highly-agile PMICs enable
“always-on” technology

 

Powering these very complex systems requires next-generation
power management ICs (PMICs) and converters that are designed to meet the high
quality and reliability demands that a consortium of SoCs need to function.
Take, for instance, the DA9210-A,
which is a 12 A dc/dc buck converter that builds upon the high standards used
in the high-volume smartphone market.

 

DialogSemi_DA9213_graph_mar2017

 

Fig. 1: The efficiency
vs load graph of support 12 A load currents in single output and 24 A in
parallel output configurations.

 

 

Primarily designed to supply the high currents required by
the SoCs multiple processing cores, these sub-PMICs seamlessly communicate with
a system-PMIC in a master-slave configuration to power tech with escalating
energy demands. By supporting load currents of up to 12 A in a single-output
configuration and 24 A in a parallel output configuration, such chips meet the
high-efficiency standards that the latest generation of automotive technology requires.

 

PMICs like these are ideal for automotive use because they
can be reconfigured using software to accommodate a growing number of
integrated technologies within the cockpit, and also outside of the vehicle.
Semi-autonomous features like those described above, for instance, rely on
cameras placed around the exterior of the vehicle that communicate with each
other – and even combine perspectives – to inform both the driver and the applications
making decisions for them.

 

These external cameras live inconspicuously on the exterior
of the car, facing a lot more exposure to potential damage than technology
within the cockpit, including extremes of temperature, moisture and direct
sunlight. The SoCs used to process the images produced by these cameras
therefore benefit from scalable, flexible, multiple-rail PMICs that can be
expanded upon to supply adequate power to each at an economy of space. This
makes the proximity between processors and the technology they operate less of
an issue, especially when it comes to heat dissipation within close confines.

 

These same characteristics come into play when keeping
infotainment consoles both operational and compact. Like the camera modules behind
each infotainment unit LCD screen, space and height is limited, and
manufacturers need PMICs that allow for heat dissipation via air convection to
prevent the need for fan-cooling. If a manufacturer has higher profile parts,
air doesn’t move around them as smoothly, which is necessary for these modules
to operate without components overheating. For chips like the DA9210-A, the switching
operation takes place at a high-frequency, which enables the power systems to
use smaller, lower-profile components, and therefore better dissipate any
byproduct heat.

 

PMICs like this have a proven track record of reliability in
the consumer space, and therefore qualification to automotive standards and integration
into next-generation vehicles can take place with relative ease. This presents
far fewer limitations for vehicle manufacturers to make their cars “smarter.” As
the convergence of mobile technology and cars increases, advanced output
configurations can help support more features, making our vehicles useful tools
for far more than just commuting.

 

 

Originally published on Power
Electronics News