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Making automotive safety systems more affordable

John Day

John Day

Posted Jun 25, 2013

It’s to be expected that costly cars contain more nice-to-have features than mainstream vehicles, and for the most part, except where government mandates have ordered otherwise, automotive safety systems carry high price tags.

But safety systems do save lives, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), and Freescale Semiconductor, which quoted the institutes when it introduced a new microcontroller (Qorivva MPC577xK microcontroller) and a 77 GHz radar transceiver chipset (MRD2001).

Low speed rear collision avoidance systems have shown to reduce insurance claims by approximately 27 percent, according to the HLDI, and the IIHS says higher speed forward collision avoidance autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems have shown to reduce claims by 14 percent.

It stands to reason that if automotive safety systems cost less, competition among automakers being what it is, there would be more of them. Systems would cost less, Freescale suggests, if they were easier and less costly to manufacture.

Freescale says its new products are highly integrated, which means that they eliminate the need for external components, thus lowering bill of materials costs and assembly time. Its radar transceiver chipset is configured in a package versus systems sold as bare die in need of time-consuming wire bonding.

Fairchild also says its MCU and chipset combination occupies significantly less printed circuit board space than alternative technology does now. As a result, according to the company, automakers can deploy more safety systems around the car rather than concentrating them toward the front.

It’s no secret that automotive electronics technology is moving rather quickly toward autonomous – and, we can hope, safer driving.

Fairchild describes the progression as four generations. Mechanical systems dominated the first generation, from 1900 to 1970. Freescale describes the second generation, from 1970 to 2000, as “hidden intelligence,” with advances like fuel injection and antilock braking systems. We’re in the third generation, “visible intelligence,” in which the vehicle owner can see how features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and park assist improve the driving experience.

Freescale anticipates the fourth generation, from 2020 to 2040, as an evolution from partial to virtually full autonomy. It may be hard to imagine from this vantage point, but it will happen because of advances in electronics technology.

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forward collision avoidance, Freescale Semiconductor, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems, rear collision avoidance systems, Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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