NXP / Freescale: A chipmaker takes shape
Reger subdivided the functionality of future automotive electronics landscapes into three major segments: Sense, Think, Act (see image), with the “Sense” segment covering functionalities such as radar, V2X, Smart Car access or the radio receiver in the infotainment system – not just the good old AM/FM receiver but also Software Defined Radio (SDR) approaches for future digital communication channels. The “Think” segment comprises more or less all forms of signal processing, while the “Act” zone includes displays, brake and steer controls and audio amplifiers. Coincidence or not, this is description coincides pretty well with NXPs profile as a chip vendor.
Based on its product and expertise portfolio, Freescale will bework fields like camera and lidar signal processing as well as the demanding area of sensor fusion. Entertainment apps, display drivers as well controls for vehicle functions like steering and braking will also fall into Freescale’s responsibility. “This is why we have to take over Freescale,” said Reger. It remains unclear how the responsibility for data bus devices will be distributed across the merged company. After all, Freescale was one of the leading drivers to integrate Ethernet into vehicles, a field that also NXP is claiming. The Dutch chipmaker already has a range of devices for CAN and FlexRay systems and has great plans for Ethernet. “Yes, it is possible to get 100 Mbps over unshielded twisted pair wire”, Reger said, adding that the company is developing its own PHY chip, which will excel through higher integration, enabling users to build Ethernet-connected control units with fewer parts. “Ethernet will be a big trend in the next four to five years”, he said, adding the enigmatic remark “especially for the new carmakers in California”. Reger left open which Californian carmakers he was talking about, so listeners could guess if his remark referred to Google, Tesla or even Apple (who obviously has activities in the automotive area) – or perhaps all of them together.
For the V2X segment, Reger opened new perspectives resulting from next-generation technologies. “The vehicles will get telepathic abilities”, he said. The V2X communications link will give them a range of more than a mile. NXP plans to cover this field with highly integrated CMOS chips and signal processing devices based on a specific variant of Cadence’s Tensilica processor. A critical aspect in V2X communications is security. NXP will use its experience from the banking and payment sectors to unlock this market, with Secure Elements, crypto chips and digital signatures.
Smart car access will be another strategic field for NXP. The company plans to establish the Near Field Communications (NFC) technology in this area as well as in the radio segment. NFC is a key enabler to further personalise car access solutions – as soon as an authorized user enters the car, the entire infotainment environment will be set according to his profile. In addition, NFC can be used to establish the connection between the user’s smartphone and the infotainment system. The same holds true for seating, air conditioning and other settings; it would even be possible to impose speed limits to certain persons – the youngster who just got his driver license won’t be able to run daddy’s car at full speed.
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