It’s been a rough year in the automotive electronics industry, or at least that’s the prevailing sentiment, but not so in Europe according to Joe Notaro, director of marketing and applications for the automotive business unit at chipmaker STMicroelectronics. Notaro says new product and program activity is higher this year than last year.
“European consumers value safety, and that is even more true of energy efficiency,” he explains. “It’s a mentality.” As a consequence, European carmakers focus on technology, especially if it improves fuel economy and reduces CO2 emissions. Happily, the two are linked.
“Sometimes people just think about hybrid and electric vehicles; that they will be the solution to all problems,” Notaro says, “but there is plenty that can be done today on conventional combustion engines. You have to reduce weight, reduce power dissipation, and reduce standby current. Carmakers in Europe are saying that every watt, every kilogram, and every milliamp counts. They tell us any solution that fits in one of those three categories, we want to talk about it. We want to implement it.”
Notaro cites stop/start systems, electrically controlled drives, brushless motors, LED lighting, and Class D amplifiers among other technologies that meet those criteria. “All carmakers in Europe are implementing some or all of these technologies that the consumer may not even be aware of,” he says.
“There are very few projects that don’t have any impact on fuel economy. If it’s a smaller module, it means it’s lighter. If it has more protection diagnostics, the automaker might be able to use smaller wiring. New systems usually have more integration and better performance than the previous generation. All these factors contribute to a Iighter vehicle and they always have an effect on fuel economy.”
Notaro says STMicro is focusing on “road to zero” megatrends including safety (zero fatalities), connectivity (zero disconnects), energy efficiency (zero fuel consumption/emissions, low-cost vehicles (zero dollars) and quality (zero defects). “Anything that has to do with these five areas is where automotive is going.”