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Posts Tagged ‘Infineon’

79 GHz CMOS RADAR Chips for Cars from Imec and Infineon

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

As unveiled at the annual Imec Technology Forum in Brussels (itf2016.be), Infineon Technologies AG (infineon.com) and imec (imec.be) are working on highly integrated CMOS-based 79 GHz sensor chips for automotive radar applications. Imec provides expertise in high-frequency system, circuit, and antenna design for radar applications, complementing Infineon’s knowledge from the many learnings that go along with holding the world’s top market share in commercial radar sensor chips. Infineon and imec expect functional CMOS sensor chip samples in the third quarter of 2016. A complete radar system demonstrator is scheduled for the beginning of 2017.

Whether or not fully automated cars and trucks will be traveling on roads soon, today’s drivers want more sensors to be able to safely avoid accidents in conditions of limited visibility. Typically, there are up to three radar systems in today’s vehicle equipped with driver assistance functions. In a future with fully automated cars, up to ten radar systems and ten more sensor systems using cameras or lidar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lidar) could be needed. Short-range radar (SRR) would look for side objects, medium-range radar (MRR) would scan widely for objects up to 50m in front and in back, and long-range radar (LRR) would focus up to 250m in front and in back for high-speed collision avoidance.

“Infineon enables the radar-based safety cocoon of the partly and fully automated car,” said Ralf Bornefeld, Vice President & General Manager, Sense & Control, Infineon Technologies AG. “In the future, we will manufacture radar sensor chips as a single-chip solution in a classic CMOS process for applications like automated parking. Infineon will continue to set industry standards in radar technology and quality.”

The Figure shows the evolution of radar technology over the last decades, leading to the current miniaturization using solid-state silicon CMOS. Key to the successful development of this 79 GHz demonstrator was choosing to use 28 nm CMOS technology. Imec has been refining this technology as shown at ISSCC (isscc.org) for many years, first showing a 28nm transmitter chip in 2013, then showing a 28nm transmit and receive (a.k.a. “transceiver”) chip in 2014, and finally showing a single-chip with a transceiver and analog-digital converters (ADC) and phase-lock loops (PLL) and digital components in 2015. Long-term supply of eventual commercial chips should be ensured by using 28nm technology, which is known as a “long lived” node.

“We are excited to work with Infineon as a valuable partner in our R&D program on advanced CMOS-based 77 GHz and 79 GHz radar technology,” stated Wim Van Thillo, program director perceptive systems at imec. “Compared to the mainstream 24 GHz band, the 77 GHz and 79 GHz bands enable a finer range, Doppler and angular resolution. With these advantages, we aim to realize radar prototypes with integrated multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antennas that not only detect large objects, but also pedestrians and bikers and thus contribute to a safer environment for all.”

Since the aesthetics are always important for buyers, automobile companies have been challenged to integrate all of the desired sensors into vehicles in an invisible manner. “The designers hate what they call the ‘warts’ on car bumpers that are the small holes needed for the ultrasonic sensors currently used,” explained Van Thillo in a press conference during ITF2016.

In an ITF2016 presentation, CEO Reinhard Ploss, discussed how Infineon works with industrial partners to create competitive commercial products. “When we first developed RADAR, there was a collaboration between the Tier-1 car companies and ourselves,” explained Ploss. “The key lies in the algorithms needed to process the data, since the raw data stream is essentially useless. The next generation of differentiation for semiconductors will be how to integrate algorithms. In effect, how do you translate ‘pixels’ into ‘optics’ without an expensive microprocessor?”

Evolution of radar technology over time has reached the miniaturization of 79 GHz using 28nm silicon CMOS technology. Imec is now also working on 140 GHz radar chips. (Source: imec)

—E.K.

Infineon CEO Says Robot Cars Will Drive Semiconductor Demand

Monday, October 12th, 2015

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By Pete Singer, Editor-in-Chief

Infineon’s CEO, Reinhard Ploss, says that the autonomously driven cars of the future will create a large demand for a variety of new semiconductors and sensors. Speaking in a keynote address at SEMI’s Semicon Europa’s Fab Manager’s Forum in Dresden, Germany, Ploss outlined the “drivers” behind the evolution of robot cars and autonomous cars and what we might expect in terms of semiconductor requirements.

Ploss expects a slow evolution to fully autonomous cars, but eventually the experience may be no different than what stepping into an elevator and pushing a button is like today.

Among the many advantages of autonomous driving:

  • Traffic fatalities (1.3 million deaths a year across the globe) can be reduced, as 90% of all accidents are caused by human errors
  • Less traffic congestion: Today, US commuter spend 38 hours/year in traffic jams, which are causing total costs of $121 billion/year
  • Increasing commuter productivity, as time in car can be used for e.g. working (48 min/day per average American)
  • Improved fuel efficiency (up to 50%)
  • Offering mobility for everybody, e.g. disabled, elder or young people
  • Reduction of accidents enables lower insurance rates

Figure 1 shows how automotive safety has evolved over time, and where increased automation is likely to come into play. Ploss said in the five levels of autonomous driving – assisted, partially automated, highly automated and fully automated – everything is still under the control of the driver in the fourth, highly automated, stage.

Figure 1

“Traffic management is a huge opportunity when you have a connected autonomously driving car,” Ploss said. “If you manage traffic to go smoothly at a lower speed, or even the same speed as the trucks, then you have the optimum load for the road.”

“As we move on the, the next big step for automated driving will be on highways,” Ploss said it will take some time to get to fully automated driving. “You need rules on how you can operate. Think about a small Italian village where you have a road which is good for one car. Who goes first?”

An automated car must have the ability for:

  • Recognizing surrounding: roads, traffic participants, traffic signs
  • Speed and direction control: motor, brakes, steering
  • Monitoring of driver

It enables:

  • Assisted/Automated driving
  • Free time while commuting Higher road efficiency (platooning) Automated parking
  • Emergency assist, e.g. braking

Ploss also touched on the advantages and challenges in connecting cars to the internet. “Many believe the autonomous driving car must be a connected car. If we connect to the internet, we can gain more information, and even add capabilities to the car,” he said.

The connected car requires ability for:

  • V2X connections
  • Infotainment, real-time maps, adverts
  • Fleet/network management

It enables:

  • V2X aids automated driving, e.g. road condition, weather info
  • More safety by further ‘looking ahead’
  • Vehicle on demand and ride sharing
  • Traffic flow management
  • Remote servicing, e-Call

Ploss said an automated car will require an “unbelievable” number of sensors. “It will look like a cocoon going around,” Ploss said. Figure 2 shows the number of cameras, radar and Lidar (laser-based radar) we’ll likely see if future generations of cars.

Figure 2

“The car will become a unit with a lot of sensors in order to recognize what is going on. These signals have to be computed, so you also have a very high level of computing power in the car to process this data,” he said.

In addition, the various motors and actuators will be required to apply brakes and steer the car. “When you see something going on the road, you have to take the right action in order to brake, steer away, etc. You have to be able to do it under a certain reliability,” Ploss said.

As in airplanes, there will be some redundancy built in, although Ploss said he believe 2X redundancy will be sufficient (vs 3X in airplanes). “Two times redundancy will be something we see more and more,” he said.

In terms of added semiconductor content, Ploss said a partially automated car will have about $100 in added in semiconductor content (today’s cars already have about $330 in semiconductor content. A highly automated car would have $400 added and a fully automated would have about $550 (Figure 3).

Figure 3

“When you look at the engine, there is a huge need for microcontrollers, sensors and power semiconductors,” Ploss said. “When you go for the hybridization, the pure electrical vehicle, it’s all about semiconductors because the efficiency of the electric drive train is highly dependent on how you are running the engine and how you regain the power when you are braking.”

Ploss added that reducing CO2 emissions was another important aspect of automotive electronic demand. “In today’s combustion engine, there is still a lot of potential to reduce the CO2 emissions. You need an awful lot of sensors and controls in order to run this engine at a very high efficiency. A significant improvement can still be done (for gas and diesel),” he said.

One challenge for the semiconductor industry is to innovate while reducing costs. “We have to go in two directions – innovation for new and better functionality and innovation for cost reduction,” Ploss said. He noted that cost reductions from the pure shrink is “not coming so easy” but sees potential in the Industry 4.0 movement. “When you have a fully connected manufacturing then you can get a lot of data that enables you to learn faster and to manufacture at zero defects,” he said.

Another challenge is that radar employs high frequency GHz electronics (Figure 4). “High frequency brings a lot of specialization,” Ploss said. He said mixed-signal bipolar will first be used, but “as we move to 20nm and 14nm, we will be able to have CMOS-based processes.”

Figure 4

He noted the advantages of silicon carbide for switching applications, citing a 50% loss reduction compared to a silicon solution. This could improve the efficiency of electric vehicles by 3% he noted. “When you think about electric driving, you always think about the last percentage point of gaining efficiency. SiC has a huge potential to enable this. It is a wide bandgap material and you can much smaller size, higher switching frequency, less conduction losses at the higher switching frequency,” he said.

Already, car manufacturers have shown autonomous concept cars, such as the Mercedes Benz F 015.


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