Auto electronics topics ranged far and wide as I cruised the floor at the Convergence 2006 conference.
In discussing hybrid cars with Ron Stence, from system engineering in Freescale Semiconductor's Microcontroller Division, he felt batteries are the weak link for the vehicleswith their issues of cost, size, weight, endurance, and monitoring of charge state and battery health. Using ultracapacitors to smooth out hybrid electrical loads has issues with power density and again with cost, he feels.
On the road to an ultimately hydrogen-based transportation architecture, "Hybrids are just a step along the way" in stretching fuel resources, Stence notes. Electronics are part of the hybrid solution, facilitating better battery management and high power efficiency. But that, he says, will dictate better hardware (MCUs) and software for controlfor example, by running sophisticated filtering algorithms on power control electronics so they aren't wasting energy, "where every milliohm is critical" to cut heat losses, he says.
Jon Husby, director, automotive, for navigation services provider Tele Atlas, told me that detailed map data his company gathers and satellite positioning, down to 2m, from the current 7-12m, will permit safety applications, such as curve warning if a driver has excessive speed. He also sees educational functions of auto navigation, as, for instance, by developing navigation-based tours for young people so they can learn about the history of an area they are traveling through on a family vacation.
Finally, at a presentation sponsored by AMI Semiconductor, Chris Webber, automotive electronics analyst for Strategy Analytics said his company's research showed safety is projected as the number one growth area for automotive electronics, expected to grow by nearly 11% from last year to 2010. Overall automotive electronics growth, he notes, is projected at an 8% annual rate from 2005 to 2012 (twice the demand for vehicles themselves), going from a $17B to a $27B market.