ST and “Smart Driving”

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Traditionally, change in the car industry takes a long, long time. For instance, the internal combustion engine was first used in an automobile in the late 1800s and is still going strong today. Others examples include the first four wheel breaking system in 1929, the car radio in 1930, airbags in 1984 and navigation systems appearing from 1995 – all these technologies are still present on the latest showroom models.

However, the speed of change is accelerating and the enabling force is semiconductor technology and the almost boundless possibilities it offers for the next generation of vehicles. Two semiconductor trends are at work:

  1. The digitalization of the car, with digital technologies being adopted for a safer and more connected driving experience. This means the adoption of high- end processors, sensor fusion, video processing, data streaming, infotainment processors, and RF transmitters and receivers…

  2. The electrification of the car, embodied by the fast rise of hybrid-electric and electric vehicles. This means a broad range of technologies such as power drivers, high-energy motor controllers, battery managers and chargers and high-integration power components for all subsystems…

Despite the increase in the pace of change in the automotive industry, the complexity of automotive design means that carmakers still plan ahead by at least 5 years for the features and specifics of their car platforms and models. However, instead of one or two major changes, the next generation of vehicles will feature a whole group of technological advances.

At ST we define this technological revolution as “Smart Driving”, making the next generations of vehicles safer, greener and more connected. Smart Driving is our vision of a near-future of mass-deployed “intelligent”, connected, networked and affordable vehicles enabling safer transportation, preventing gridlock as much as possible, and allowing passengers to spend their travel time on activities other than driving or waiting, all of this while strongly curtailing emissions.

Safer, greener and more connected cars will include new features bringing new benefits for drivers and passengers:

Safer Driving
– Having the car drive better than we do by maintaining a safe distance to other cars, remaining perfectly in our lane and at the right speed, and always watching for threats which are then acted upon automatically by the car’s safety systems
– New features will also make driving safer not only for the car occupants but for other road users, by actively avoiding accidents

Greener Driving
– Improving power and fuel efficiency in car electronics and helping people drive (or be driven) to minimize fuel consumption, emissions and wear and tear on their cars
– Moving towards electric vehicles with components for all of the key systems of hybrids (HEVs) and electric (EVs) vehicles: the on-board battery chargers, the DC/DC converters, the main traction inverter and 48V systems, all managed with microcontrollers

More Connected Driving
– Bringing our personalized entertainment and connected experience into the car environment in a safe and easy to use manner
– Allowing vehicles to communicate with each other (V2V) and to the Infrastructure (V2I)

ST is providing many of these key building blocks to automotive suppliers and carmakers so they can build the future today. To name only a few, these include:
• Components for ADAS systems, where ST is the #1 chipmaker notably through its partnership with Mobileye
• Infotainment and telematics components such as processors, positioning, and V2X
• Secure components to protect data flows inside the car and between the car and the outside world
• A broad range of automotive processors for all the car’s subsystems
• Power components including those targeting the key challenge in electric vehicles: mileage extension

The automotive industry is entering an unprecedented period of change, driven by semiconductor technology – a period that will not only transform the car but also our roads, cities and the way we use our transport time – watch this space!