For all their importance, cars haven’t changed that much over the last century in terms of purpose or functionality. This is not to say that cars are simple. In fact, cars are incredibly complex, as well as cleaner, safer, and more reliable; but the formula for success has remained consistent over time. That is, up until the last two decades, when advancements in mobile computing and semiconductors – the now ubiquitous computer chip – started transforming vehicles in ways that would have seemed improbably futuristic even a few years ago. Today the automotive industry is on the cusp of a second revolution.
The car of tomorrow is coming to life more quickly than anyone imagined. Technologies like cameras to gather and process data to enable the driver and vehicle to respond more quickly and efficiently have already been integrated into vehicles and are resulting in a safer driving experience. And multiple vehicle manufacturers predict that we are only a few short years away from mass-production of vehicles that can fully drive themselves. These advancements create opportunities for personal use, as well as fleet usage for entire cities.
Nurturing Data the way it was meant to be
Autonomous cars will save the U.S. economy roughly $642 billion dollars a year according to Forbes. With so much to gain from the self-driving car, manufacturers and automotive technology providers are working vehemently to meet the safety needs and entertainment wants of future car buyers looking to maximize their time and money with connected cars. There are four main areas in a car in which memory is used, and each area has different memory requirements:
- Power train system: NOR flash with its ability to work at extreme temperatures (from -40°C to +125°C) and its reliable code storage is the memory used in power trains. Memory used in the power train enhances conventional engines and enables new types of engines, such as electrical vehicles (EVs), hybrid electrical vehicle (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electrical vehicles (PHEVs).
- Communication systems: Multichip packages (MCPs), which combine two technologies into one package, fit the requirements needed given the tight space constraints and memory requirements of communication modules. Memory used in communication systems integrates ‘hands-free’ operation, utilizing a consumer’s smartphone via a wireless link or an integrated transceiver.
- Infotainment/Cluster systems: DRAM, NOR flash, managed NAND and MCPs are all needed to meet the needs of infotainment/clusters due to the variety of applications included in these systems. While MMC devices are typically used for storage (of contacts, maps and other media), industry leading LPDDR4 devices are essential to support the bandwidth demands associated with high-resolution video available in today’s cars. Flash enables a wide range of information for a driver, including heads-up displays which project pertinent information—including speed, night vision assistance and turn-by-turn directions—onto the windshield to help keep a driver’s eyes on the road.
- Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS): Similar to infotainment/clusters, DRAM, NAND, NOR flash and MCPs are all used to meet the needs of ADAS, which includes a wide range of features including adaptive cruise control, automotive night vision, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, parking assistance, backup cameras, collision avoidance, automatic electronic braking, and smart headlights. The extensive compute performance associated with the three stages of ADAS—sense, perceive, act—drives this system to use the highest performance memory. And, as ADAS scale to extend to autonomous driving, system requirements will further tax memory bandwidth.
Translating needs into the most efficient Capabilities
For today’s automotive memory solutions, high temperature and quality standards are key. Connected car applications require specific memory solutions due to the stringent quality, reliability, and operating temperature requirements of the automotive market.
Not only are performance and more advanced systems driving these requirements, but the relative location of the memory pushes the boundaries. Think of the forward-looking camera right behind the windshield with no airflow and the sun beating down on it during a hot Texas summer. Combine that with the proximity to the processor and the volatile memory quickly heats above the 105ºC range quickly pushing towards 125ºC and the nonvolatile sees a similar increase from 85ºC to 105ºC. The automotive market’s unique set of feature requirements include:
- Continuous Improvement Process – Persistent focus on improving the overall quality of products, including legacy products
- Automotive-Grade Selection – Strict selection criteria in fabrication, assembly, and test to ensure the highest quality product
- Long Lifecycle – 10-year product availability and support
- Burn-In Flow – Simulating the first year of product life to improve overall quality, which is statistically when marginal products fail
- Automotive Certification of Fab and Assembly Sites – Fab and assembly certification to ISO/TS 16949
- AEC-Q100 – A failure mechanism-based stress test qualification for integrated circuits]
- Automotive documentation such as:
- Production part approval process (PPAP) documentation – Additional documentation stating where die is fabricated, parts are assembled, and testing is conducted so there is a formal return merchandise authorization (RMA) trail
- 8D failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) support – In-depth support with guaranteed timelines and clear steps for improvement
The Catalyst to the next leap in Automotive Evolution
‘Micron is focused on the automotive market segment with parts purposed built to meet the above standards,’ said Robert Bielby, Senior Director, Micron Technology, Inc. ‘We continue to work closely with manufacturers and their suppliers to define the next generation memory. We’ve become a leading provider of automotive memory solutions – not by chance, but by design.’