Telematics Starts With Chips

Think massive—amounts of data.

Think massive—amounts of data. Think small—semiconductor chips. These two opposing thoughts are typical when designing laptops, cellphones, and other portable electronic devices. They also hold true when designing today’s automotive telematics systems. These thoughts lead to two challenges. First, adding features requires satisfying the consumer’s clamor for better safety, location services, and infotainment. It also requires features that will be relevant and will stay relevant not only when the vehicle finally rolls off the assembly line, but also during its many years of use.

Packing functionality in smaller real estate 

A recently passed law in Europe mandates “that all new cars sold in the EU from April 2018 must incorporate ‘eCall’ tech,” according to officials at STMicroelectronics (st.com). However, “until now, the automotive telematics industry has used processors that were not specifically designed for this purpose and therefore included more functions—and used more silicon real estate—than is actually needed.”

The Telemaco2 family of applica-tion-specific processors from ST is explicitly designed for automotive telematics. This set of four microcontrollers minimize the cost of developing telematics applications in three ways: including only essential Internet protocol technology, being independent of modem technology, and using Linux (open-source) software components. The four Telemaco2 chips differ in what features are included in each chip.

The Telemaco2 processors feature an embedded boot core that eliminates the need for a separate controller unit and an integrated secure CAN (Controller Area Network) subsystem that eliminates the need for a separate in-vehicle bus controller. The chips come with RSA authentication to secure embedded system code, as well as Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Dead Reckoning software, which work with ST’s Teseo satellite-tracking/automotive-positioning chips. Last, integrated power management circuitry further reduces the automotive BOM for telematics.

Give ‘em an inch…
“Today’s consumers want rich, connected experiences, and that extends to in-vehicle access to all their content, the cloud and the surrounding environment,” says Kanwalinder Singh, senior vice president of business development for Qualcomm Technologies (qualcomm.com). “What started with traditional telematics services, now supports always-on connections between mobile broadband networks, in-car infotainment systems, and brought-in mobile devices. With smartphone connectivity setting the pace for advanced features, consumers expect the same experience from all other connected devices, including their car.”

Faster data communications is the hallmark of two new LTE modems added to Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive Solutions. The Snapdragon X12 LTE modem (9x40), which is built using 20-nm technology and is aimed to help auto manufacturers develop next-generation telematics, features greater coverage at Category 10 speeds (up to 450 Mbps in the downlink; 100 Mbps, uplink). The Snapdragon X5 LTE modem (9x28), which is targeted at broadening the use of LTE in all vehicles, supports Category 4 data transmission speeds (up to 150 Mbps, downlink; 50 Mbps, uplink).

Both modems have on-chip support for all major cellular standards (including LTE, DC-HSPA, EVDO, CDMA 1x, GSM and TD-SCDMA), the major RF bands and band combinations, GNSS for all the major constellations for automotive navigation (including GPS, Beidou, Glonass, and Galileo), and the two basic forms of duplexing (frequency and time division duplex, FDD and TDD). Both chipsets also include an integrated 1-GHz Cortex A7 multicore processor with Linux and built-in software for satisfying key global regulatory mandates (e.g., EU eCall and ERA Glonass), as well as to provide BOM cost savings for hosting automotive telematics applications. When working with the Qualcomm VIVE QCA65x4 chipset, both modems support consumer features like Wi-Fi 802.11ac hotspots and safety applications (such as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure).

“The world will soon see 5G emerge as a blend of pre-existing technologies such as 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi to allow higher network coverage, availability and density. With its key differentiator being greater connectivity, 5G will act as an enabler for autonomous vehicles, machine-to-machine and machine-to-infrastructure services, and the Internet of Things,” according to research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan (frost.com) in a report entitled “The Global Advent of 5G in Cars.”

“While highly automated cars are expected to commercialize only by 2020, 5G will be the driving force behind vehicle applications involving machine learning, brake/steering, ECU integration, highly accurate GPS, and sensor fusion. 5G will also facilitate wearable devices like smart glasses and smart watches, and help make augmented reality and virtual reality mainstream features in cars.”