LAS VEGAS — As the automotive market has grown to be the most coveted segment among semiconductor suppliers, Maxim Integrated Products, Inc. believes it has hit the sweet spot with the right technology at the right moment.
William Chu, managing director of automotive at Maxim, told EE Times, “At a high level, we are hearing two big asks from automakers. One is that they need high-speed links capable of sending mega-pixel resolution images inside a car. Another is that they want to free up the space and shrink power budget currently used by head units, as they plan to pack different types of electronics more and more into them.”
Maxim offers high-speed links through its Gigabit Multimedia Serial Link (GMSL). Its serializer and deserializer (SerDes) line drivers and receivers, primarily designed for use in automotive video applications, are ideal for point-to-point megapixel-resolution video transmission from multiple cameras [now getting installed in a car] to a graphics processor inside ADAS, for example, explained Chu.
GMSL SerDes technology, which Chu described as unique to Maxim, can provide “a compression-free alternative to Ethernet,” delivering video at more than 3Gbits per second across a single twisted-pair cable, and better EMC compared to Ethernet, according to Maxim.
Building on the company’s success with GMSL, Maxim is rolling out what it calls “a remote tuner solution.”
Its mission, according to Chu, is to vacate the space in a head unit previously crowded with multiple radio tuners, bringing the radio tuners closer to the antenna.
He explained that the traditional radio architecture was always problematic for vehicle designers, largely because multiple tuners in a head unit make it hard to manage heat dissipation, and to accommodate multiple cables from the antenna. Further, analog signals received from the radios tend to pick up noise between antenna and head unit. Most important, each radio tuner has needed separate baseband processing, relying on single-purpose hardware that requires separate designs to support multiple worldwide radio standards, Chu noted.
In contrast, with Maxim’s new MAX2175 RF to Bits tuner, radio tuners can reside in a quieter environment close to the antenna.
The new solution essentially enables “software-defined radio, placed closer to the smart antenna, with the digital outputs of the tuners serialized by using Maxim’s GMSL SerDes onto a single low-cost coax cable,” Chu said. “Power for the remote tuner solution is also delivered on this single cable,” he added.
More specifically, the MAX2175 allows baseband processing in software on an automotive SoC, such as the Renesas Electronics R-Car H3 SoC, according to Maxim. This software-defined radio approach enables flexibility by eliminating the need for a dedicated baseband processor. By simply changing the software, the MAX2175 suppprts any radio standard.
In summary, Chu explained, “With our remote tuner solution, we can now leave power and space budget for more complex ADAS electronics which automakers are planning to put inside a head unit.”
Maxim's RF-to-bits remote tuner solution (Source: Maxim)
GMSL vs. Ethernet
So, when a new standard like BroadR-Reach – an Ethernet physical layer standard designed for use in automotive connectivity applications – gets tractions from the car industry as an networking technology, how will GMSL compare?
Maxim’s Chu offered the reminder that GMSL is a point-to-point link, not network-based connectivity like BroadR-Reach.
Second, he added, “GMSL can support Ethernet, if that’s what automakers want.”
Some infotainment display and camera-based advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) applications have introduced BroadR-Reach, because the technology allows multiple systems to simultaneously access information over an unshielded single twisted-pair cable.
But Maxim believes that serializer/deserializer (SerDes) architectures have their own place cut out for them. They are typically simpler to implement, while offering high-speed links at higher video quality [uncompressed video signals].
“We think GMSL is effective for certain applications where high-speed serial links are required, such as camera sensors, lidars and radars,” said Chu.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times