Yes, we CAN…our work in accelerating automotive networks

Today’s cars are electronic devices – and are already converging into communication devices. Actually everything, down to the smallest chip, communicates with each other inside the vehicle. This can make life difficult for design engineers, since they need to design systems where one electronic device needs to communicate with others to operate. This is true in today’s industrial automated world as well as in our cars. One of the most important communication protocols in this area is the Controller Area Network (CAN) protocol which is one of the most successful and as we think, one of the most important bus protocols worldwide.

Before CAN was introduced, every electronic device was connected to other devices using wire. This worked fine, as long as the functions in the system were limited. However today’s systems have dozens of control units for managing devices, sensors, and actions. CAN helped to reduce the wires, e.g. in cars. This is one of its main advantages – especially with electronic systems becoming more prevalent in cars.

CAN provides a mechanism which is incorporated in the hardware and software by which different electronic modules can communicate with each other using a common cable. Thus it enables efficient communication between various electronic control units (ECU) which are embedded in today’s vehicles such as engine management systems, ABS, gear control, lighting control, air conditioning, airbags, central locking, a.s.o. All the devices which communicate are connected to the same two wires in a CAN bus. The protocol is based on a non-destructive arbitration mechanism which grants bus access to the message with the highest priority without any delays. Its error detection mechanisms include the automatic disconnection of faulty bus nodes in order to maintain the communication between the remaining nodes. The transmitted messages are not referenced by the transmitter node address or the message receiver but by their heading identifier. This identifier specifies the message priority within the system. CAN is so popular because of its communications being relatively immune to external interference and to single control unit faults. This reliability is among the properties that has made it the current standard in difficult environments, with wide temperature ranges, and greatly varying environmental situations.

The CAN in Automation Association is driving the development and constant improvement of the CAN bus and Spansion has been a member of this non-profit organization since summer 2013. About 560 companies are currently members of this international users and manufacturers‘ group. Representatives of CiA actively support the international standardization of CAN protocols, and CiA members develop specifications to be published as CiA specifications.

Spansion brings its expertise in the MCU area thus continuing the long-standing activities of Fujitsu Semiconductor who joined CiA 2 decades ago. We will be working in a task force to drive the standardization of the CAN FD (Flexible Data Rate) standard which is an improved and faster version of the CAN protocol. We will aim to contribute to new revisions of  ISO11898 (protocol) and ISO16845 (test).

CAN FD provides more payload per message; up to 64 bytes instead of just 8 bytes beforehand. At the same time CAN FD increases the bandwidth by switching the payload section to higher speed.  Some demonstrators already presented FD-networks running at a bus speed of 15 MHz which is 15 times the maximum speed of the legacy CAN. First deployments to mass production vehicles however aim at a bus speed of 4 MHz during payload transmission.

By this  the range from 1-5 Mbit of which there was no cost efficient automotive network in the past, will be covered most efficiently. The CAN FD brings its advantages to this: it uses the existing networks adding more bandwidth and helping to prolong the lifetime of the CAN technology: CAN FD users can integrate this faster protocol into their existing networks without additional components for the physical layer. It is merely necessary to integrate a new communication IP which comes as embedded function of the MCU. Spansion will deploy ist first CAN FD MCU in 2014. In fact this MCU will carry multiple instances of the mCAN IP.

We are looking forward to the collaboration!

Wolfgang Wiewesiek studied electrical engineering at TU Braunschweig Germany where he also started his professional career at the Institute for Data Processing Units developing space-born control units for international scientific research projects in 1987. He joined NEC in 1997 and became the CAN specialist of the company. He holds a patent on ‘CAN mirror mode.’  In 2004, he joined Fujitsu as marketing manager for automotive microprocessors and network specialist. In Aug 2013, he became an employee of Spansion through the company’s acquiristion of the analog and microcontroller business of Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd.

How Many Eyes Does Your Car Have?

If someone referred to “eyes” on his car, you would think that he’s talking about the car’s headlights. The main function of a car’s headlights is to assist your ability to drive (or “see”) at night. However, when I reference “eyes” on a car, I am referring to the cameras, sensors and radars all around your car that make up ADAS (Advance Driver Assistance System). These eyes are constantly monitoring your entire car, 360 degrees, to avoid collisions and accidents, even if you are distracted by watching your kids in the back seat of your car. Continue reading

Spansion Creates ‘Magic’ in Automotive Market with ADAS Technology

When you were a kid, there is a good chance you wished that magic was real so you’d have the ability to make charms, fly with a broom and maybe even drive while you’re sleeping. Amazingly for us, one of these is actually happening and it doesn’t even require a magic wand. Thanks to the continued development of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), with the turn of a key (or push of a button), a seemingly inanimate object now has a mind of its own. Continue reading

Five Trends to Watch in 2012

FIve Trends to Watch in 20122012 will mark a further acceleration in the use of Flash Memory as a critical computing component. Beyond the tablets, smartphones and enterprise SSDs, NAND and NOR Flash memory are growing and making an impact throughout all our lives at work, on the road, at home and at play. Here are five trends we expect to accelerate this year: Continue reading

NVIDIA in the Driver’s Seat?

When you think of NVIDIA, most consumers have thoughts of advanced graphics chips for PC gaming.  Its GeForce line has long been heralded for its realistic 3D visuals, screaming performance and fast interactive game play.  That type of innovation is what NVIDIA has been known to deliver.  So what’s a graphics processing unit (GPU) doing inside the car?

The Car: The Most Advanced Consumer Electronics Device Around

It’s not that odd of pairing if you think about it. Look at all of the changes happening in automotive electronics.  Behind the steering wheel, the mechanical gauges are being replaced with digital screens.  The center console is no longer the series of nobs and switches to control a CD player, stereo and air conditioning, but rather a large touchscreen display that lets you manage many of the car’s systems.

These new displays are also becoming a key safety element of the vehicle.  Information is being collected throughout the automobile and from external conditions and fed to the driver so they are fully aware of the car’s health and potential hazards on the road.  Advancements in auto electronics are enhancing the driver’s ability to navigate a vehicle while making that journey more comfortable and entertaining for the passengers.

Given these changes, it makes a total sense for NVIDIA to bring its technology to the car.  These advanced displays demand instant-on performance and rich 2D and 3D user interfaces.  NVIDIA has been providing those features to gaming for years. 

NVIDIA: A Welcomed Addition

For those that follow semiconductors, you probably already know NVIDA has been catering to profession and science markets for some time.  They have been making steady inroads in automotive as well, which was very apparent at this year’s consumer electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas.  NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 processors are making its way into Audis, BMWs and the upcoming Model S form Tesla.  Check out NVIDIA’s automotive page to read more on their automotive focus. 

NVIDIA has some formidable competitors in automotive including Freescale, Infineon, Renesas and Texas Instruments.  These companies have been focusing on the auto market for decades so the competition will be tough.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with all of these companies over the years as Spansion brings its NOR Flash memory solutions to market to support these continual advancements in automotive.  It is an exciting segment and NVIDIA is a welcomed addition.

TFT Clusters Demand for High Density NOR

Today’s innovations in automobile design result from the growing demand for more electronics within the car. Cars now come with state-of-the-art audio and video systems, high-tech and graphic-rich navigation systems, and wireless technologies for many types of communications.

Safety electronics is on the cusp of making a quantum leap forward with advanced driver assistance systems (ADASs), which are involved with braking, steering, and collision avoidance. When drivers become distracted, the risk of an accident quickly increases. In 2008 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 6000 Americans died due to a distracted driver and another 500,000 were injured.

2010 Range Rover gets a 12-inch wide virtual gauge cluster

2010 Range Rover gets a 12-inch wide virtual gauge cluster

Automakers are now turning their attention to accident prevention, with a focus on improving the driver’s experience. To lessen distractions, key vehicle and driving information needs to be displayed in front of the driver, specifically in the dashboard.

The instrument cluster, a space once reserved for electromechanical gauges and light indictors, is transforming into a new digital information center for drivers. Thanks to the advancement and maturing reliability of digital thin-film-transistor (TFT) displays, improved signal processing power, and high-speed digital communication, analog-based systems are rapidly migrating to digital system displays.

Today’s dashboards built around TFT displays still provide basic vehicle information, such as drive train position, speed, fuel levels, and engine status, while bringing in additional data from outside the car. This added information comes from new innovations like 360° cameras, night vision, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, and 3D graphic navigation data.

Digital clusters enable a more cost-effective and flexible means to converge all vehicle and safety information, which further minimizes any unnecessary distractions. The driver no longer needs to look down or fumble with the center console searching for music, make phone calls, look up driving directions, or turn one’s head to look at a blind spot.

While these new advances offer many new and exciting options, they also require designers to find innovative solutions to control costs as well as deliver critical performance capabilities and ensure long-term product reliability. Spansion’s NOR Flash is the ideal solution to meet system designer’s requirement for performance, reliability, and cost. The following article provides a nice overview.

Auto Electronics: Weighing The Tradeoffs Between Automotive Digital Clusters And Memory Architectures