PORTLAND, Ore. Freescale Semiconductor Inc. has unveiled a microprocessor that aims to integrate all the control electronics for an automobile cockpit into a single low-power device. The company introduced the flagship model of its new microprocessor family for automotive applications, the MPC5121e, along with a telematics microprocessor road map extending to 2015, at the Microprocessor Forum on Monday (May 21). Freescale called the microprocessor its "telematics system-on-chip."
"Electronics is making up an increasingly larger piece of the automotive pietoday's electronics is about 25 percent of the bill of materials for an automobile, and by 2015 it will make up about 35 percent," said Phil Magney, principal analyst at the Telematics Research Group Inc. (Minnetonka, Minn.).
"Freescale is capitalizing on that trend with its telematics microprocessor road map," said Magney. "The automobile has become a digital machineit stores algorithms in digital memories, it uses networks to communicate that data throughout the vehicle, it's got cameras, it's got sensors, and the typical vehicle today has as many as 60 microprocessors. But telematics will be the glue that pulls all these diverse systems together into an integrated digital engine on wheels."
Telematicsby definition the two-way flow of wireless informationwill be standard equipment on all General Motors vehicles in 2008. As a result, GM's OnStar, powered by Freescale Semiconductor Inc.'s Power Architecture-based microprocessors, has become the first family of automotive telematics. According to TRG, following close behind is Mercedes Benz's Tele Aid and BMW's Assist. Ford's Sync will debut in 2008 and Chrysler's Hughes Telematics Inc. system is slated for release in 2010.
At the lower end of the vehicle spectrum, automakers including Toyota and Nissan as well the dozen or so others in the sector plan to have integrated telematics systems in place by 2015.
"Today, Freescale's microprocessors for telematics have by far the largest market share," said Magney. "Renesas Technology Corp. is probably No. 2 for its navigational systems, and Infineon is third by virtue of its lower-end microprocessors. Then there are all the third-tier plays, including Samsung Electronics, ARM, ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments."
Many automakers today offer piecemeal telematics options, such as navigational assistants, hands-free telephony or global-positioning system (GPS) support. But the trend, according to TRG, is to integrate all these functions into a common subsystem, so that costs can be driven down far enough to enable telematics to become standard equipment in all autos.
"Originally the radio system, the navigation system and the entertainment systems were all separate systems, but the trend today is to architect all telematics systems into a platform that can leverage their common elements to lower overall costs," said Magney. "This trend lends itself to Freescale's microprocessor architecture, which includes all the pieces required to allow vehicle makers to centralize telematics functions, including GPS, navigation, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and all kinds of audio and video processing controlled by the same microprocessor."
Freescale's MPC5121e will interface to the other microprocessors in an automobile, fielding their inputs from the power train, body, chassis and safety sensors and display their results on the dashboard.
The microprocessor will also handle more traditional telematics functions such as GPS communications and in-dashboard maps that display navigational information. It will process real-time audio and video multimedia data streams and provide plug-and-play support for Bluetooth, Ethernet and Wi-Fi peripherals.
According to Freescale's road map, next year the company will expand its telematics microprocessor family to include driver assistance functions such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, pedestrian and collision avoidance systems and heads-up displays. In 2010 Freescale promises a low-cost telematics microprocessor that will be cheap enough to become standard equipment on even low-end vehicles. Finally in 2011, Freescale pledges a next-generation flagship version for an extended telematics microprocessor family that will take vehicle makers out to 2015.
The MobileGT Alliance will provide software for the MPC5121e, which is source code-compatible with Freescale's existing MGT5100 and MPC5200 microprocessors. The MobileGT Alliance is a partnership between independent software tool kit providers for automotive applications. It includes Freescale, Motorola, IBM, QNX Software Systems, Wind River and Green Hills Software as well as the Virtual Prototypes Division of Engenuity Technologies and others.
Based on the QNX real-time operating system and integrated with VisualAge Micro Edition Java application tools from IBM, OEMs can develop their applications using the CodeWarrior Development Studio or the Linux Board Support Package. Applications can be deployed with the J9 virtual machine and OEM-defined graphical user interfaces from Engenuity.