10-12-2018 | | By Paul Whytock
All you drivers out there like to think you have a touch of Lewis Hamilton or Sabine Schmitz driving skills, but the sad fact is you really don't.
Those drivers have reaction times of around 200 milliseconds, and you'd be extremely fortunate to achieve something under 500 milliseconds. The fact is professional racing drivers are known to have extraordinarily well-developed cerebellum functions, the part of the brain that receives information from the body's sensory systems and then activates appropriate reactive movements.
So you might as well get used to the fact that you'll never get that dream drive behind the wheel of a Ferrari F1 car. The car would be far too quick for your binaries to cope with.
But don't feel too bad about it because even champion FI drivers have something in their driving environment that has way faster reaction times than they do - it's called automotive electronics.
Without electronics technology, F1 drivers would be nowhere near as good as they are. And the same goes for us, everyday motorists.
Every F1 car has an electronic control unit that handles many car functions, including engine operation, the clutch, electronic differential, and the gearbox. It can change gears in less than 100 milliseconds and stop the car from stalling if it spins off the racetrack. Then there's the telemetry which feeds back car information to the race team's pit crew, and from there, they can monitor brake and engine temperature, suspension movements, ride height, and pedal movements in real-time.
That's all very sophisticated and explicitly designed for the Grand Prix car. Still, we everyday motorists also have an absolute plethora of in-car electronics technology that makes us better and safer drivers and entertains us. At the same time, we sit in those interminably long and irritating jams, and it also keeps us connected with the world outside our vehicle.
Indeed electronic components and systems now make up approximately 36% of the cost of a car which is a long way from the very occasional 1950s vehicle, which could lay claim to some inherent electronics technology by way of a vacuum tube radio! The first real breakthrough in automotive electronics came in 1956 with electronically controlled ignition systems.
Since then, the application for electronics in modern cars has grown thanks monumentally to the innovative research and development work of semiconductor companies worldwide. One major contributor to that market expansion in Europe is the Munich-based semiconductor company Infineon Technologies AG.
This company was born out of Germany's oldest and most respected company, Siemens, which spun off its electronics operation in an IPO stock market launch in 2000.
Since then, the company has produced semiconductor components for the computing, communication and industrial systems markets. It's fair to say that while the communication and computing sectors can prove fiscally volatile, the one stable electronics application market that Infineon has served in is the automotive sector.
Last year industry analysts IHS Market confirmed the company was the global leader for power semiconductors, a vital component area in auto electronics.
In the discretes and modules sector, Infineon retained the number one spot for the fifteenth time and increased its market share and is now more than double the size of the company in second place. In the IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) market Infineon is now more than three times the size of the nearest competitor.
All that is pretty impressive, but you don't maintain that sort of market lead unless you continue to develop at both the electronics component and systems level. And new systems cannot be created unless there is the continuous arrival of innovative components to enable them.
Here's some of the stuff that Infineon has been up to recently.
At the OktoberTech Technology Forum last year, the company unveiled its latest semiconductor solutions relative to autonomous driving, including a complete radar chipset solution. It comprises a 77/79 GHz Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC), a high-performance multicore microcontroller with a dedicated sensor processing unit and a safety power supply.
At present, Infineon is the leading supplier of 77/79 GHz radar chips with over 50 million devices sold. The growth of radar applications in vehicles is predicted to grow thanks to the voluntary commitment of the United States automotive industry and a mandatory requirement by Euro NCAP for the use of radar-based driver assistance systems to achieve a five stars safety rating in new cars.
In addition to its radar chips, Infineon is also the first company to achieve the automotive functional safety grade ASIL D for angle sensors with a single sensor chip. The XENSIV™ TLE5501 automotive angle family is based on TMR (tunnel magneto-resistance) technology. Their fields of use range from steering angle applications to motors for wipers, pumps and actuators and electric motors.
The TMR technology offers a high sensing sensitivity and a high output voltage that provides output signals of up to 0.37 V/V for all XENSIV™ TLE5501 products. Unlike other technologies, a TMR-based sensor can be connected directly to the microcontroller without further amplification. TMR also exhibits low-temperature drift, which cuts down on external calibration and compensation efforts. In addition, TMR technology is well known for its frugal current consumption, which is as low as 2mA.
Cars have become very sophisticated mobile communications modules, and the enablement of this technology requires vehicles to have networked electronic control units within them.
Consequently, embedded IT security is a part of the system design that ensures the safe updating of software over the air (SOTA).
Infineon is not alone in working on cyber-security for cars, and it has a collaborative relationship with Elektrobit Automotive GmbH. The two companies can now offer a coordinated hardware-software security solution based on the second generation of the multicore microcontroller family AURIX™ (TC3xx) from Infineon and Elektrobit’s zentur HSM solution.
The microcontrollers perform monitoring and security tasks and support security protocols in the vehicle. Every TC3xx microcontroller has an integrated hardware security module (HSM), where the keys are generated and stored. The HSM uses hardware-based symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms and hash functions (AES-128, ECC 256, SHA2). The HSM enhances protection against manipulation, increases speed, and hash calculation (SHA256) is around 150 times faster than with a pure software solution.
That, of course, has a direct impact on RSA signature verification, and the AURIX™ and EB’s zentur HSM combination enables more than 100 signature verifications/sec.
Infineon's technology appeal is not totally aimed at electronics OEM design engineers. The consuming public needs to know what electronic goodies are launching that could play a part in their personal technology world. Consequently, at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the company demonstrated its wireless charging technology for smartphones using its AURIX™ and XMC™ microcontroller families.
These controllers work seamlessly with power devices from Infineon, including a voltage regulator and MOSFET technology which enables efficient power conversion. The devices support the current 15W charging standards, including fast charge smartphones and can support future changes via software updates.
Incorporated in the controllers is an enhanced power stage architecture that improves Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) performance by 10-15 dB over existing solutions on the market. And from a user safety perspective, a recently developed foreign object detection system provides enhanced detection accuracy.
Infineon's extensive range of electronics technology goes way beyond the scope of this article, and readers wanting more information about the company's products should click here.