A dramatic increase in camera and sensor content in vehicle designs which is driving the need for high density and high bandwidth RF connectors. This trend includes passenger vehicles and medium and heavy-duty commercial trucks, as well as farming equipment.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Mike Comer, Amphenol Director of Business Development and Product Marketing, what is driving the demand for RF connectors.
Comer: There’s a huge demand from consumers right now for more “luxury” and infotainment or driver assistance features. And there’s a strong trend toward electrification and the surrounding ecosystem – charging stations, wireless payment systems, basically anything that provides additional convenience.
That includes autonomous applications outside of the traditional automotive industry – last mile delivery, self-driving delivery robots, warehouse or factory automation – anything that makes services more efficient.
So, while we are focused on automotive products being used in the traditional sense it’s really important to note that these same products are also being utilized in tangential markets.
AI: What about autonomous vehicles?
Comer: Safety is definitely the number one concern right now. As vehicle designs reach a higher level of autonomy, the camera and sensor content also increase. This is directly correlated with applications that are tied to safe operating of the vehicle. DSRC [V2V, V2I and V2P] along with pedestrian detection systems are all pieces of an elaborate system designed to keep those inside and outside the vehicle safe.
As autonomy in vehicles evolves, the quick transmission of data is becoming critical, with so many devices such as cameras and sensors collecting information that needs to be delivered to compute modules and processed. These modules act as the “brain” of the vehicle and needs to make real-time decisions based on this continuous stream of input.
AI: How does the 5G rollout impact automotive technology advancement?
Comer: Quite a bit actually. Telematics is beginning to utilize low latency, high bandwidth 5G connectivity.
This allows owners, either individuals or a business with a fleet, to monitor all aspects of a vehicle – location, diagnostic data, driver safety practices, etc. Even firmware and feature updates can now happen faster than ever before thanks to the capacity of 5G systems.
We’re seeing more and more connected vehicles rolling out with improved infotainment and that are designed in part to create a higher quality commute using traffic flow data sent to the cloud from other vehicles.
Our engineers specialize in designing smart antenna interconnect that are capable of handling the increased number of channels or wireless protocols that are becoming standard in passenger vehicles.
We offer interconnect solutions for everything from common shark fin antennas to custom packaged, over-molded solutions for camera and antenna placements around the vehicle.
AI: How does RF interconnect fit into other autonomous applications such as factory automation or smart agriculture?
Comer: RF technology is used in every autonomous vehicle. In the agricultural industry, RF technology enables highly precise navigation to automatically steer farm machinery which makes the workflow more effective.
When combined with sophisticated mapping software, those tractors can find the most efficient path to take and ensure 100% of the farmable land is covered.
The most interesting thing about these applications are that they are primarily within the overarching harsh environments market. Even though automotive interconnect is designed traditionally for high volume vehicle applications the features really complement the requirements for other verticals where a system may be compromised if exposed to external elements.
We know the product is rugged enough to meet USCAR standards and in instances where additional ruggedization is required, we can develop custom solutions to meet the specific needs of our customers.
AI: How does Amphenol RF support smaller enterprises or start-ups?
Comer: Amphenol RF has regional teams that are dedicated to supporting the development of new products from our key customers and at the same time, we are very much aware of the needs of smaller or start-up companies that may have limited resources during the design phase.
Not only do we have a process in place to support our larger customers with customized solutions and full portfolio, but we also have launched a vast majority of our standard products into distribution which makes it ideal for smaller companies or startups to buy stock in low volumes to satisfy their immediate needs before going into mass production.
We have a full portfolio of standard off-the-shelf automotive products including FAKRA PCB and cable-mount connectors and cable assemblies, and AUTOMATE Mini-FAKRA PCB and cable-mount connectors and cable assemblies.
We have a highly knowledgeable technical support and engineering staff to support all of our customers as they design their products.
AI: How does Amphenol RF support the sharp increase in cameras in new vehicles?
Comer: Vehicles have an unprecedented number of cameras designed into them today – a 360-degree camera systems for outside and inward facing cameras to monitor drivers. And with this high number of cameras, unique packaging for the cameras and the interconnect associated with it are critical.
As the resolution on the camera increases so does the amount of bandwidth that needs to be transferred and the resolution of the displays within the vehicle.
One of the greatest things about this company is the diverse range of customers we have developed solutions for over the years. From automotive, broadband, industrial, medical – we have engaged with some of the most forward-thinking teams in each market. Along this journey, we’ve been able to hone our ability to manufacture sealed and ruggedized connectors for the industrial market while developing blind-mating board-to-board connectors for the broadband market.
We leverage our core competencies in both of those areas to develop custom camera interconnect solutions. Those solutions, combined with our ability to quickly develop tooling, prototype and ramp up to production volumes, has allowed us to be very successful in this capacity.
AI: Are there any new products related to automotive technology that we can expect to see coming out of Amphenol RF in 2021?
Comer: We recently released a really exciting next generation automotive interconnect, AUTOMATE Mini-FAKRA. It was developed as a response to the increased use of cameras and sensors. AUTOMATE is a high density, high bandwidth multiport connector system that offers an 80% space saving over traditional FAKRA, which is our primary automotive series and is the current industry standard.
With so many more electronic devices jammed into a vehicle, saving space is critical so it was vital for our engineers to create a solution that allows the expanding technology load to fit into the existing framework. AUTOMATE was developed to be compatible with all mini- FAKRA options on the market today which is why it is available in a Type A and Type B version.
Both versions feature a modular multi-port design and complementary features to what you’ll see on new versions of traditional FAKRA in the coming years as they also continue to evolve.
AI: What do you hope that the automotive industry associates with the name Amphenol RF?
Comer: Quality and innovation. Our entire cross functional team is involved in creating high-quality RF interconnect to protect the integrity of any system regardless of market or application. As an original core business group within Amphenol, our ability to consistently deliver on this over the last almost 90 years is what I think really sets us apart. And, by the same token, our ability to develop high-quality custom solutions that are as unique as our customers has really made us a leader in RF.
We’re able to leverage our experience and global team to stay ahead of trends and support companies, regardless of size, as they are developing innovative products of their own.