Issue: Dec 2006


Integrating vehicle electronics



by Lenny Case



“Today’s board net architecture has to be changed for standardized solutions in safety applications or open platforms for new infotainment services” - Dr. Frank Rottmann, Member of the Elmos Board, responsible for development and sales

The need for smart sensors and actuators to talk to each other is becoming more critical as customers demand more and more from their vehicles.

One of the leaders in system integration is the Elmos Microsystems division. The core products of Elmos are application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) that combine analog and digital functionalities on one chip using a proprietary high-voltage CMOS technology. Elmos units are used by nearly all suppliers to the automotive industry.

Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to Dr. Frank Rottmann, Member of the Elmos Board, responsible for development and sales, asking about future developments in the world of automotive electronics.

Rottmann: First, the major future innovation will be the total replacement of mechanical systems in automotive vehicles by electric/electronic systems. Take power steering: In the future we won’t need the mechanical coupling between driver and wheels – thanks to real drive-by-wire systems. This concept allows reduced energy use in the case of driving straight ahead as well as improved safety due to active steering- and braking-assistance.
Second, today’s board net architecture has to be changed for standardized solutions in safety applications or open platforms for new infotainment services. I think AUTOSAR is the most favorite approach. Due to higher complexity in ECUs the level of integration has to be increased, but the functionality of the system will become independent from the physical hardware layer. This requires an increased amount of intelligent sensors and actuators to provide and communicate signals and information via standardized interfaces.

Third, new functions in driver assistance systems by using the already available information will be a significant add-on. Simple example: The combination of light and wipers on indicates bad weather conditions. The navigation system knows the details of the next bend ahead. Due to data mining of information the result could be that the driver assistant will warn you to slow down. The combination of infotainment plus the current car status information plus pre-safety functionality will create a new chapter of accident avoidance.

Finally, don’t forget the so-called human machine interfaces (HMI), for example the high number of knobs in present cars. You get a feeling for the real complexity when you start driving a rental or new car. Therefore, an important job for the future will be to develop more intuitive solutions.

AI: What are some of the new products Elmos is working on currently?

Rottmann: We are addressing many of the above mentioned applications. An example is the tire-pressure monitoring unit installed in a wheel. The intelligent sensor contains a micro-electro-mechanical-system (MEMS) for pressure and sometimes even for acceleration measuring, all integrated in a dedicated package. So you can combine a high performance microcontroller (digital technology) with a high current driving circuit (power technology), with both devices optimized.

AI: How do you see your role in the FlexRay consortium?

Rottmann: FlexRay will be the new standard for high-speed bus links in future. In the first step it will replace some of today’s time-critical CAN connections. Combined with almost 20 years of experience in the field of different bus systems, e.g. K-bus, LIN, CAN, byteflight, Elmos is focusing on various bus transceivers and star couplers for FlexRay.

AI: What will Elmos need to do to keep ahead in the field of automotive application-specific integrated circuits?

Rottmann: Due to the ASIC business which has linked Elmos strongly to its customers we have gained many years of experience in automotive system integration. The result: More than 300 customized solutions and over one billion Elmos chips on the road. The know-how about system integration on chip level leads us to the next level of integration.

AI: What areas does Elmos need to strengthen?

Rottmann: Focus on the real core items where we can address in the market depending on our experience, know-how and technologies. My goal is to bring the slogan ‘Elmos – The Expert Company’ as a quality brand to the market. That means that Elmos should be the name for competence and know-how for electronic solutions in motor control (DC-, stepper-, BLDC-motors), bus links (LIN, CAN, FlexRay), DC/DC controllers, and Microsystems for intelligent sensors and actuators. For some dedicated applications we will use strategic partners to complete our product capabilities. Elmos will be able to address successfully additional body, safety, lighting, climate and HMI applications in the automotive market.

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