Freescale does not design the same chip twice -- one for consumer and another for automotive. Instead, Freescale applies the knowledge accumulated through designing full auto-dedicated MCU products to its consumer chips, which it knows will be used inside cars.
Asked about additional steps Freescale takes in developing the company's auto-qualified "consumer-type" parts (vs. consumer-only parts), Cornyn explained, "We do an additional on-chip SCAN test to guarantee silicon test coverage."
Freescale also characterized and validated a "semiconductor process" for long-term reliability and automotive environment use cases.
Further, the company's engineering team simulated timing (frequency) and layout over wider process variation windows so that it can ensure consistent yield and frequency capability. Cornyn stressed, "We do not just screen a few parts to be shipped for auto. We ensure that a consistent production volume will meet automotive temperature and quality requirements across years of production."
The company makes sure that both ESD protection and package capability comply with automotive reliability standards. "We then qualify these parts to the AEC100 Grade 3 (or better) automotive standards."
Cornyn's unstated warning to competitors is that learning what it takes to make auto-grade chips takes years of actual experience.
When Qualcomm announced earlier this month at CES that its new Snapdragon 602A will be an "automotive-grade" infotainment chipset, many in the automotive chip industry wondered: How much has Qualcomm really learned about auto-grade requirements? The fact is that Qualcomm's own LTE modem chip, although used by carmakers, has never been pre-qualified as auto-grade as a standalone chip.
According to Qualcomm, the plan for Snapdragon Automotive Solutions is "to pre-integrate these automotive-grade modules and automotive-grade Qualcomm VIVE WiFi/Bluetooth modules with the automotive-grade Snapdragon 602A processor to allow Tier 1s and automakers to develop and deliver next-generation connected infotainment systems."
Then, there's the matter of degrees of so-called automotive compliancy.
Strategy Analytics associate director Roger Lanctot pointed out to EE Times that, beyond LTE modem chip itself, many of the other components involved in building cellular modules are also not automotive qualified. They include power amplifiers, memories, front-end modules, etc.
"So it is still not possible to have a fully automotive compliant module," he told us.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times