Developers of in-vehicle infotainment systems are faced with two conflicting challenges – one from customers who expect the systems to be able to do more and more – and the other from OEMs, which need to eliminate complexity as much as possible.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Michael Hannawald, Head of Marketing, Automotive Business Unit, Renesas Electronics Europe, how the Renesas X4 generation V850 MCUs – the S-series for in-vehicle infotainment solutions are meeting this challenge.
Hannawald: The main differentiator is the multimedia gateway functionality, which copes with the increased demand of data in the multimedia system and performs the networking/transfer of control and multimedia data between the different systems in the car. For example, it allows the link between different interfaces like MOST, Ethernet and CAN at high transfer rates. To prevent any delay in transfers, the real-time behavior of the MCU is essential, and this is one of the proven, key assets of the proprietary 32-bit V850E2 RISC-CPU core.
AI: How is this product going to help OEMs looking to offer more infotainment solutions at lower costs?
Hannawald: They’ll only need one MCU, which can control the car networking based on several standards, and that significantly reduces the usual number of microcontrollers. The V850E2/Sx4-H Series is the most suitable supplement to today’s car infotainment head units, communicating with connectivity and/or navigation devices - like Renesas’ SH726x and R-Car product roadmaps - to handle all real-time networking and system control tasks. Since power management and diagnostics are also important functions for multimedia applications, the Sx4-H offers the required interface peripherals (like AD converters, Ethernet), at an excellent low power/high performance ratio.
AI: What are Renesas Electronics strengths in the fields of in-vehicle infotainment and embedded electronics?
Hannawald: Renesas Electronics has a long history in the automotive sector. Our strengths include a strong market and customer focus, as well as consolidation of global market requirements into a consistent, scalable and software compatible product roadmap, with the focus on software re-usability for the customer. With the increased system complexity and high level operating systems in car infotainment, we also focus on providing a full range of software solutions from simple device drivers and qualified AUTOSAR MCAL packages to production-ready multimedia components and SDKs. Paired with in-depth technical knowledge and an acclaimed customer support team, this attests to Renesas’ dedication and commitment to the automotive market. Together with the excellent mass production quality level, Renesas has achieved the number one position among suppliers of microcontrollers to the automotive sector.
AI: What is Renesas Electronics’ expertise in providing advanced embedded design technologies for in-vehicle infotainment solutions?
Hannawald: Renesas Electronics offers a broad product portfolio from low end audio system control up to a quad-core navigation application processor. Renesas Electronics’ standard audio system control devices (Sx3 Series), and the newly available Sx4-H with multimedia gateway functionality, are the de-facto standard for audio system control applications. In the display audio application field, Renesas offers a device series - SH726x – that provides connectivity solutions, i.e. the link of audio functionality with USB and Bluetooth and 2D graphic solutions and reduces external components to a minimum. Supported by a rich software application package which can be adapted to customer needs, Renesas offers specific expertise to integrate customer requirements into an optimized solution.
Renesas’ R-CAR series, based on ARM’s Cortex A9 RISC processors, offers a scalable roadmap from single- and dual- up to quad-core systems. These implement both 3D and 2D graphic cores, a rich application feature set, various hardware acceleration functions for audio, video and pictures. They put a strong focus on efficient, highest data bandwidth oriented system architectures, boosting the performance of the devices even further. Since performance requirements in this application field are evolving rapidly, Renesas offers enough headroom for future requirements. Various operating systems will be supported, including open architectures like Linux, together with graphic drivers and rich software application packages.
The synergy with our subsidiary Renesas Mobile Company (RMC) enables us to quickly react to market requirements and research future market trends, like LTE (Long Term Evolution). All this will keep us at the top position in the automotive in-vehicle infotainment market segment.
AI: What has Renesas Electronics’ role been in promoting the MOST Cooperation standards?
Hannawald: Renesas is seeing increased interest in this interface from OEM and Tier 1 - and not only for premium cars. This is why MOST is part of our networking oriented system controllers V850ES/Sx4-H, the Dashboard (D-Series) and the R-Car SOC device families.
AI: What efforts has Renesas Electronics put into pushing the AUTOSAR standards?
Hannawald: Renesas has been a pioneer in that it has established AUTOSAR support for all of its products for automotive control applications. Even the former 3rd generation was equipped with a full Autosar support package. AUTOSAR support is or will be available for all the 4th generation P, D and F-Series families. Even though AUTOSAR is not a mandatory requirement in the field of car infotainment yet, AUTOSAR drivers for the networking interfaces will be available for the S-Series. Due to the compatible V850 platform concept, Renesas Electronics is able to offer fast and easy adaptation to the S-Series.
AI: How has the production of microcontrollers been impacted by the devastation caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami?
Hannawald: By April 6, 2011, Renesas Electronics had seven of its eight Japanese facilities back in operation. The big challenge for Renesas Electronics has been working to get its Naka wafer fab back to operational levels, which was worst affected by the earthquake and tsunami in March. Naka represented 15% of the company’s total production, and 50% of Naka's output is microcontrollers - over half of which go to the automotive sector. The First wafers were put through the fab in June. The company moved production from the Naka fab to other Renesas fabs and to foundries to help maintain the supply chain. The relatively high inventory levels pre-quake have been an important factor. In fact, 70% of orders were shipped from inventory until May/June.
On June 10, 2011, Renesas Electronics released an updated production schedule for its Naka wafer fabrication factory in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki. Having resumed mass production at both the 200- and 300-mm wafer fabrication lines, the key highlight of the new schedule is that Renesas expects it will be capable of significantly advancing the schedule by one month from the end of October to the end of September, when the supply (shipment) capacity will return to pre-earthquake levels. Renesas Electronics will continue to focus all possible efforts on the recovery work at the Naka factory. The company expresses gratitude for all the support it received from companies outside the Renesas Group, which helped to speed up the resumption of operation and advance the production schedule.
Thanks to the efforts mentioned above and the cooperation of our business partners in the automotive industry, Renesas was able to reduce the delivery impact to a minimum.