Helping Automotive Engineers Deal With Highly Complex Car Electronics: ST

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By offering innovative automotive solutions throughout the past few years, STMicroelectronics has positioned itself as one of the leaders in the automotive domain. And carrying that forward is the company’s newest automotive solution – the AutoDevKit.

Giving an in-depth glimpse into it, Giovanni Luca Sarica, Head of Mass Market Business Development, Automotive & Discrete Group at STMicroelectronics and MH Tey, Regional Senior Director of Marketing & Applications of Automotive Products – STMicroelectronics Asia Pacific spoke about the development at a recently held online media session attended by EFY.


MH Tey, Regional Senior Director of Marketing & Applications of Automotive Products – STMicroelectronics Asia Pacific

As one of the major leaders driving innovations and transformations in the automotive sector, STMicroelectronics has brought in various solutions around the automotive sector ranging from power management ICs and MCUs to mobility systems and telematics & networking  – all with a focus on vehicle electrification and autonomous driving systems that modern cars are adopting nowadays.

Challenges

While on one hand wide electrification and adoption of autonomous technology are greatly revolutionising modern driving systems, on the other hand, the electronic modules in the car are becoming more complex.

Giovanni Luca Sarica, Head of Mass Market Business Development, Automotive & Discrete Group, STMicroelectronics

“The number of the ECUs in today’s cars is growing very fast, and the electronic pervasiveness in each module installed in a car is much higher compared with the traditional vehicle produced just a few years ago,” said Giovanni Luca Sarica, Head of Mass Market Business Development, Automotive & Discrete Group at STMicroelectronics.

He also added that this increased level of complexity is putting a burden on car designers to develop new electronic modules and new ECUs with multiple functionalities. The automotive software currently used is quite complex, so much so that it takes up a lot of time, effort and cost to develop a new one.

Solution

So in order to quicken the prototyping of such new automotive solutions, ST has introduced a new automotive development platform – the AutoDevKit.

Why AutoDevKit?

It provides huge flexibility in design for empowering designers to address new challenges during the development phase of a new electronic module for an automotive application, thus allowing rapid prototyping for a faster time-to-market.

The foundation of the AutoDevKit comprises a wide variety of hardware and software support – making the entire solution follow a “Lego-like” approach where a variety of building blocks can be assembled in an application. The flexibility to reuse existing hardware as well as applications developed with AutoDevKit allows removal of some building blocks (that had been used in previously released applications) and replace them with new ones.

As previously mentioned, an automotive application can be rapidly prototyped within just a few weeks as compared to the very long development time required with the traditional approach (that includes selecting the required products, studying their technical documentation, creating the PCB, assembling, software development and testing). In fact, the traditional approach could require several months for development, depending on the complexity of the application.

The building blocks

From the hardware perspective, AutoDevKit offers a large catalogue of building blocks including functional boards and MCU boards, such as:

  • 32 bit 1 MB/4MB Auto-Grade MCU boards
  • LED Driver board
  • Stepper Motor Driver board
  • Single/Dual/Quad Channel High Side Driver boards
  • H-Bridge Driver board
  • Generic/Dedicated Connector boards
  • DC-DC Converter board
  • USB Type-C and Power Delivery board
  • Class-D Audio Amplifier board
  • Bluetooth Module Board
  • GNSS Precise Positioning Board
  • Ratio Metric, LiDAR, Hall sensor

The software development environment, the SPC5 Studio IDE offered by the AutoDevKit allows users to select (drag and drop) building blocks that would be used in the application. It comes with:

  • Functional Board Drivers & APIs
  • MCU Peripheral Auto Configuration
  • Hardware Connection Driver

So, as it can be seen, AutoDevKit’s software environment guides the designer step-by-step in building up an application, removing the need to go through the documentation beforehand.

In short, both hardware and software play a vital role. While the hardware support offers a great range of functional boards that can be interconnected using a “Lego-like” approach, the software support presents a visual development environment where MCU peripherals can be automatically configured, thus simplifying the process to develop an application – all without requiring deep information related to the specific functional board.

USP of AutoDevKit

  • Offers a unique and wide variety of modules for automotive and transportation applications
  • Enables users to create and develop an application starting from scratch by leveraging a very simplified environment
  • There is no limit to the number of modules
  • There is no conflict at the hardware or software level.
  • Provides flexibility in reusing existing hardware.
  • Maintains full compatibility with ST’s large variety of automotive dedicated 32-bit MCUs.
  • Drastically cuts down the development time and the time-to-market.
  • The development platform is open and free, making it possible to connect third-party modules.
  • University students of electronics require no other specific qualifications to build their automotive applications.
  • The AutoDevKit explorer app (available for Android & Apple mobile phones) enables a design engineer to browse through the various components and boards, create a project in the mobile and later test it out in SPC5Studio, and get quick user support as well.

“AutoDevKit is a very good solution that addresses a multitude of customer needs: evaluating one or more products in a few hours without spending time in creating evaluation boards, testing a complete application in the real world and make use of the available technical resources including the software stack that can be used as a baseline for creating the final module,” said Giovanni Luca Sarica.

Automotive application examples

The solution is adept at providing support to users with limited design resources for their automotive applications, some of which include:

USB Power Delivery

Users can connect 3 different modules (DC-DC converter board, USB Type-C and Power Delivery Board, and 32-bit automotive-grade MCU board) in order to start the trial.

Adaptive Front Lighting System

It focuses on securing the best possible visibility by automatically acquiring data from the steering for repositioning the light beam while driving on the road.

The system employs a 32-bit 4MB auto-grade MCU board, LED driver board, Stepper motor driver board x 2, Single Channel HSD board and Generic/Dedicated Connector boards.

Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS)

Since electric cars are relatively silent compared to a conventional car when being driven, a pedestrian practically finds it difficult to tell whether a vehicle is approaching them when he/she cannot see it.

The AVAS aims to solve the above issue by producing an alerting sound, which can be heard by a pedestrian and thus prevent any accidents.

The system comprises a 32-bit automotive-grade MCU board, a connector board and a Class-D Audio Amplifier board.

Feature for autonomous driving

AutoDevKit’s GNSS strength is essential for handling complex positioning features in smart cars. Explaining its capabilities, Giovanni Luca Sarica said, “The GNSS module is based on our TESEO-LIV3F module. In comparison with a standalone IC, the module has – in one single package – all the technologies for activating the positioning functionality. You can use the building block in a very easy way (like a black-box) and receive from a sensor the specific positioning data. We also have a plan to complement our building blocks with MEMS sensors for enabling the dead-reckoning functionality, at the same time taking advantage of the GNSS roadmap including a highly accurate positioning system for sub-metre and up to centimetre accuracy.”

Adding to that MH Tey, Regional Senior Director of Marketing & Applications of Automotive Products – STMicroelectronics Asia Pacific, stated, “From the Asia Pacific perspective, we are working with a software & map services provider. Thanks to our very powerful Teseo V / Teseo APP and with our partners’ cooperation, we can reach an accuracy of up to centimetre level range with both satellites and base station, which is key for fulfilling the requirements of ADAS applications, autonomous driving applications and autopilots. We have successful road test results of more than three thousand hours within the most stringent environments, like under the bridge when the satellite is not well reachable or in the internal building car park lots.”

Asia Pacific Support Program

With a strong and diversified approach towards the global automotive market, ST has introduced a vibrant Asia Pacific (APAC) program that enhances the benefits of the AutoDevKit to improve the time-to-market to ST’s APAC partners.

“We (regularly) update and share all the AutoDevKit development information with our partners through our ST blog. We are also working closely and cooperating with our distributor partner, taking advantage of their very well established e-channel distribution, and also a large audience of followers in order to reach and further support our widespread and diversified Asia Pacific market environment,” said MH Tey. “Last but not least, through webinar, we are regularly organizing and conducting online technical discussions and providing customer support. With all these online support program activities, we strongly believe that our partners can easily access our updated information and reach us anytime for any support whenever needed.”

Some of the support which ST offers includes:

  • Fast ECU prototyping
  • Specific tailor-made programs with the help of our competence centre to develop an integrated PCB system reference solution.
  • Customising with actual customer real application load simulation and evaluation.
  • Providing necessary system validation & verification reports such as functional safety analysis, test bench & EMC test report.
  • Full compliance with the ISO26262 automotive standard
  • Active live demo covering e-mobility, powertrain, connectivity and body & convenience solutions.
  • Conducting technical workshops, training, roadshows, events and summits.

“Our Asia Pacific competence centre can further enhance the key advantages of AutoDevKit by providing a more customised solution. Once a specific customer has selected all the required components, we can support the customer in a single integration of PCB. If the customer can provide us with the real application needs, we can help them to do the real application loads, providing them with full validation and verification test results,” said MH Tey.

All this not only helps in reducing the overall project development cycle time but also enhances the solution quality, safety and cost of ownership, thus improving a partner’s overall market competitiveness.

Key Takeaways

  • The unique automotive development environment provided by the AutoDevKit facilitates and simplifies prototype development.
  • It offers a wide catalogue of functional blocks, both in the form of hardware and software for fast prototyping with less effort.
  • The automotive solution’s flexibility enables customisation of the existing kits as per customer needs.
  • This helps in significantly reducing the production time in the rapidly growing automotive market.

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