Active safety will continue to drive the
need for faster processors and more affordable memories, Delphi
Automotive chief technology officer Jeff Owens told Design News Radio recently.
Owens, an auto industry veteran who heads a staff of 17,000
technologists at Delphi, said the automotive industry is looking
to a new generation of electronic components to meet the needs
of so-called active safety systems, which can prevent accidents.
"The cost-benefit to this technology is significant," Owens
said. "We think it's the next big step to having that curve of
fatalities drop downhill."
Active safety systems, which can take control of a vehicle's
brakes or steering, are built atop many of the same processing
innovations (microcontrollers and memories) that have served as
the foundation of the passive safety revolution. "That's been
the breakthrough that has allowed many new safety loops in the
vehicle, for driver and passenger bags, as well as for rollover,
side curtain bags, knee bolsters, and rear bags," Owens said.
"It's all been enabled by the capabilities of electronics and
faster processing technologies."
However, he also said the annual fatality figure of 33,000 may
be reaching a plateau. That's why the industry needs to begin
the transition from passive to active safety.
"We need the ability to see the accident before it occurs and
have the vehicle take some kind of mitigating action," he said.
"Putting on the brakes, maybe even going into a full panic stop
-- those are the kinds of things that would eliminate or at
least reduce the impact of a collision."
Fuel efficiency laws, such as the 54.5mpg Corporate Average
Fuel Economy mandate, will also have a profound effect on the
automotive semiconductor market, according to Owens.
Technologies such as gasoline direct injection, turbocharging,
and nine-speed transmission designs will also drive the need for
automotive electronics. Such systems need better electronics to
run the software algorithms, sense important events, and meet
tighter time constraints.
"Faster processors and more affordable memories open up many
doors and windows into automotive electronics," he said. "When
the processing power is available, it will be used."
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--Automotive Infotainment Grows Up