TORONTO — Infotainment systems are driving the increased adoption of SSDs as car owners expect more advanced navigation systems and richer entertainment experiences.
Robert Fan, VP and GM for the US at Silicon Motion, tells us infotainment systems on vehicles are becoming full-blown computers requiring high-performance graphics, communications, and data storage. In the past, these systems were reserved for high-end cars, but they are now becoming increasingly mainstream, including built-in GPS capabilities with high-quality mapping systems that need storage space.
The company just announced the availability of its automotive-grade PATA and SATA FerriSSD line designed for in-vehicle infotainment systems. FerriSSD is designed to replace the traditional SATA and PATA hard disk drives used in a wide range of embedded applications such as automotive infotainment systems. FerriSSD comes in a small BGA package that integrates NAND flash with Silicon Motion’s controllers.
Fan says one of the critical features of the new FerriSSD line is improved reliability and endurance, as these infotainment systems need a long life span in line with how long the owner wants to keep driving the car -- perhaps as long as a decade. In addition, these SSDs must be able to handle ambient temperatures between -40° and +85°F to accommodate various climates as well as other temperature factors, such as a car sitting in the sun for a long time.
Earlier this year, Silicon Motion expanded its Ferri portfolio for embedded systems with its Ferri-eMMC products aimed at industrial and commercial applications that must withstand extreme temperatures and require longevity and reliability.
Silicon Motion’s FerriSSD line for infotainment systems also adheres to the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) Q100 Stress Test Qualification for Integrated Circuits, says Fan. “Automotive has pretty stringent temperatures requirements. Electronics are critical to safety.”
Lower prices for SSDs are part of what is driving the adoption of SSDs for automotive applications, according to Joseph Unsworth, VP for NAND Flash and SSDs at Gartner, as well as the inherent benefits of solid-state technology. No moving parts means greater reliability, he says, and the smaller form factors are appealing. SSDs also meet the requirements for extreme temperature ranges and shock resistance.
Reducing power consumption is also an important design consideration in automotive electronics, according to James Hines, Gartner’s research director for automotive electronics. In addition to the obvious impact on lowering the amount of fuel consumed, he says, reducing the power load of electronic modules is beneficial from a thermal management standpoint, and it allows the use of smaller-gauge wiring, which contributes to weight reduction.
SSDs are likely to be the storage devices of choice for on-board infotainment systems for the foreseeable future, says Hines, although cloud storage is an alternative with the expansion of LTE connectivity, so the need for on-board storage could decline. When on-board HDDs for automobiles were first introduced, he tells us, the idea was that an entire music library could be stored on the drive for listening while in the car. But with mobile device integration and the availability of streaming media services, that need is greatly reduced.
Hines says leading suppliers of NAND flash products to the automotive industry are Micron, Toshiba, and Samsung, which are all in the strongest position to leverage their existing customer relationships.
Micron recently expanded its automotive storage portfolio with the introduction of its M500IT SSD in densities ranging from 60 to 240 GB and eMMC 5.0 memory specifically designed for automotive applications. Like Silicon Motion’s FerriSSD, M500IT uses AEC-Q100-compliant NAND flash memory components.