If it’s affordable and beneficial, I want the latest and greatest whatever. I thought of that this week when iTunes invited me to install their new version, which I did because I wanted to be up to date and there was no cost involved. Same with Adobe Reader and their frequent updates.
Although it’s a much bigger deal, and there are costs involved, if I were building an embedded automotive application, I’d rather have a 32-bit microcontroller than an 8-bit or 16-bit device. Performance is significantly better. In a paper published in EE Times last fall (http://www.eetimes.com/design/microcontroller-mcu/4210502/Bringing-32-bit-performance-to-industrial-and-automotive-applications), Oyvind Strom and Haakon Skar, both from Atmel, note for one example that a 32-bit multiplication requires a single cycle on a 32-bit processor versus 20 to 40 cycles on a 16-bit device.
Strom and Skar explain that motor efficiency affects power consumption, and motors benefit from higher performance microcontrollers running sophisticated algorithms. They say new low-power 32-bit architectures present an opportunity to increase performance and improve power efficiency in embedded automotive applications such as motor control for body electronics.
So a 32-bit microcontroller optimized for body control applications would seem to be worth considering, and this week Atmel launched an automotive-qualified version of its 32-bit UC3C AVR microcontroller, targeting applications such as HVAC, power window, power doors and power seats.
The part includes 512KB of embedded flash, a 4-channel pulse width modulation (PWM) controller with 20-bit precision, a 16-channel, 12-bit analog-to-digital converter, a 4-channel, 12-bit digital-to-analog converter, a temperature sensor, four analog comparators, various communication interfaces, and myriad other performance features. Vector Informatik has adapted its software, including two operating systems, to support the Atmel MCU.
The UC3C AVR is just one of the 32-bit MCUs available now for body electronics and motor control applications – the latest and greatest devices of their kind. Selecting a microcontroller for an embedded application can be a hugely complex decision, but it’s good to see major price/performance improvements continuing in automotive electronics.