Advancing Safety and Infotainment for Cars of Today and the Future

October 10, 2017

Randall Wollschlager By: Randall Wollschlager
Vice President, Automotive Business Unit, Maxim Integrated 


We may not have flying cars 10 years from now, but the vehicles of the future will likely be more connected and more autonomous. Imagine taking a seat inside your self-driving car, pulling out a desk surface, and logging into your laptop to get some work done. Or leaning back and watching an ultra-high-definition (UHD) movie on a big screen during a long road trip…while your kids play a virtual reality (VR) game and your spouse scrolls through social media feeds, all on their own in-vehicle displays.

As Alexander Kalogianni writes in Digital Trends, "Heads up: the cars of the not-so-distant future are being made today. Automakers have been hard at work testing tech that will appear in the car of tomorrow for some time, and we’re seeing the results already."

There are already cars on the market featuring more lines of code than airplanes. Increasing vehicle sophistication will continue to drive greater use of electronic components and technologies. Many of today's cars already have five to eight cameras to provide and support critical safety functions like lane departure warnings, emergency braking, and 360-degree surround view. One of the most essential technologies for cars of the future, particularly for infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), are high-speed serial links such as the Gigabit Multimedia Serial Link (GMSL) technology that Maxim develops. A decade from now, fully equipped premium vehicles will likely require up to 16 links at speeds beyond 3Gbps for real-time driver assistance and safety functions.

Supporting an Explosion of Data Processing in the Car

In cars right now, we are experiencing an explosion of data processing. Today’s Wi-Fi-enabled vehicles are connecting to home networks, satellites, and cell towers. Next on tap for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication is connectivity with additional elements of the infrastructure, such as traffic lights and signs. Increased networking capabilities will eventually make wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication a reality, enabling cars, trucks, and buses to broadcast data such as position, speed, and brake status to other nearby vehicles so that drivers can be alerted when needed. It's no surprise that fully autonomous cars will boast about 3000 Watts of compute power to support all of this advanced functionality.

High-speed serializer/deserializer (SerDes) line drivers and receivers carry the data streams that bring in-vehicle video, audio, and communications to life. These digital content streams not only keep us entertained and navigating in the right direction in our cars, but they are also making driving safer. ADAS applications such as collision avoidance, lane-departure warnings, and self-braking systems rely on fast relay of video streams from multiple cameras and of radar and lidar sensor data to processors, where the data is analyzed and triggers an appropriate action by the vehicle. Looking ahead, mirrors in vehicles will be replaced by video links and displays. Bi-directional, high-speed communications between video systems and headlights will be essential to improve the machine vision that will replace human vision to guide vehicle operation. As the automotive industry advances toward fully autonomous cars, high bandwidth, performance, and reliability of the high-speed links providing the backbone for these applications will be even more critical.

Future Car

GMSL technology provides the fast data rates, low cabling costs, and low latency needed to support autonomous driving functions.

Automotive-Grade GMSL SerDes Technology

Maxim, which has shipped more than one billion automotive ICs, develops GMSL SerDes ICs for applications like ADAS and infotainment. GMSL is a multi-gigabit automotive interconnect technology that transports HD video, audio, control information, and Gigabit Ethernet over 15m of a single coaxial cable or 10m to 15m of shielded-twisted pair. There are some key capabilities of this technology that are worth highlighting, as they demonstrate Maxim’s long history of developing solutions that empower design innovation:

  • The automotive-grade technology meets the most stringent automotive electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) specifications
  • EMI performance of the link is enhanced because spread-spectrum capability is built into each SerDes IC. The data modulation methodology used also plays a key role here.
  • The fact that the technology is compression-free is significant. Compression causes artifacts and lost information, rendering it impossible to support machine vision, an essential capability for safety features such as object and pedestrian detection. Compression-free technology also results in very low data latency.

100Mbps Ethernet is already qualified for automotive applications, and there's movement toward qualifying 1Gbps Ethernet. By comparison, Maxim's current 3Gbps GMSL technology provides faster data rates, 50% lower cabling costs, and better EMC. We ship tens of millions of GMSL chips annually, and we're continuing to enhance our GMSL technology. Since the car of the future will be more autonomous, drivers and passengers alike will want to utilize their infotainment systems more during their rides. And the vehicles themselves will need more horsepower for real-time capture and analysis of video and sensor data to support ADAS functions.

We also understand that vehicle weight is always a concern, so we've designed our power-efficient ICs with a power-over-coaxial architecture that eliminates the need for additional power or ground wires. This results in lighter, more fuel-efficient cars, lower system and manufacturing costs, and an overall simplified design for ADAS and infotainment systems. We have a new remote tuner solution chipset that includes our GMSL technology. This chipset simplifies the automotive radio head unit while improving radio signal quality. As we advance our GMSL technology, we will continue to design with automotive safety integrity levels in mind.

A Productive Road Ahead

Significant progress has already been made in autonomous automotive applications, and we're likely to experience more milestones along the path toward fully autonomous cars. Looking ahead, high bandwidth and fast data rates will continue to be important, as will fault tolerance. Before long, our commutes and road trips could not only be safer but much more productive and entertaining.