What's this accelerating down the binary highway all about – anyway?

01-03-2019 |   |  By Paul Whytock

Modern cars are electronically complicated beasts but thankfully cutting-edge technology systems have provided enormous safety, economy and operational efficiency benefits.

All this is very positive stuff, although sometimes I do wonder who is really in charge, me or the car. Mine wont let me switch to full-beam headlights unless it thinks they are required, it wont let me open the doors while the engine is running even when the electronic handbrake is on but it does have a heated steering wheel option in cold weather and so for that I do forgive some of it's high-tech control-freakishness.

But as mentioned there are enormous electronic benefits and today's cars are now mobile information receiving and processing centres. Occupants will soon be able to participate in video conference calls (audio-only for the driver of course until the onset of autonomous vehicles that actually work), download films and communicate and exchange data globally with colleagues.

We already have in-car cameras that keep us in lane on motorways and help us park in tight spots and high-spec infotainment systems are now the norm.

But all this info-on-the-move downloading stuff consumes meaty chunks of bandwidth so any development that supports faster data streaming, speedier video download time and better in-vehicle communication is a welcome idea.

So an automotive-qualified USB 3.1 Gen1 SmartHub IC, providing 10X faster data rates over existing USB 2.0 solutions and cutting indexing times is pretty neat.

To support the rising adoption of USB Type-C in the smartphone market and enable universal connectivity in vehicles, the USB7002 SmartHub IC developed by Microchip includes interfaces for USB Type-C connectors.

   

USB-C, formally known as USB Type-C, is a 24pin connector system which has a two-fold rotationally symmetrical connector.

The point here is that car-makers have to design-in increasing numbers of high-tech functions into their models so their marketing men have the sales features to compete with rival manufacturers. It's fundamentally an in-car technology Grand Prix.

Therefore the role of USB for reliable data transfers requires robust functionality and faster transfer speeds. Drivers and passengers want rapid responses from infotainment systems regardless of the multitude of functions occurring simultaneously in vehicles from downloading mapping data to playing music and interacting with user-interfaces.

We know the 5 Gbps SuperSpeed data rates of USB 3.1 ensure higher bandwidth and maximum functionality which works well for applications needing gigabit speeds. Microchip says its USB7002 reduces the download time for large videos which is good for vehicles having integrated 4K dash cams.

In addition to that, consumer demand for faster mobile device charging has led to the increase of USB Type-C in the smartphone industry. The USB7002 combines the benefits of USB 3.1 technology with USB Type-C and it enables direct USB Type-C connections through native configuration channel pin interfaces and integrated 2:1 multiplexers that support the reversible connection feature of the USB Type-C connector.

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To support the driver assistance applications that are now standard on all mobile handsets, the SmartHub ICs also include FlexConnect technology. What this provides is the capability to dynamically swap between a USB host and USB device.

The SmartHub ICs also feature patented multi-host end-point reflector technology which means USB data to be mirrored between two USB hosts. Consequently, the graphical user-interface of a phone can be displayed on the vehicle’s screen and integrated with voice commands inside the car while simultaneously charging the mobile device.


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By Paul Whytock

Paul Whytock is European Editor for Electropages. He has reported extensively on the electronics industry in Europe, the United States and the Far East for over twenty years. Prior to entering journalism he worked as a design engineer with Ford Motor Company at locations in England, Germany, Holland and Belgium.

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