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    Functional safety making inroads one automotive chip at a time

    Designers are taking an integrated systems approach

    By Majeed Ahmad | May 2, 2017

    Functional safety is a primary concern in automotive design, especially in areas like driver monitoring and instrument cluster. In automobiles, functional safety standards minimize the risks to an acceptable level in case of malfunctions due to failure in electronic systems.

    So where do we stand in actually implementing functional safety in automotive chips? There have been some positive developments lately. First, Renesas Electronics has added functional safety to its R-Car family of SoCs via multiple hardware IPs that facilitate control of safety mechanisms.

    The chipmaker partitions the SoC according to safety requirements and then run software packages like Green Hills INTEGRITY RTOS on safety-critical functions such as instrument cluster and warning sound generator.

    Rohm is another silicon vendor that has recently announced the availability of functional safety features for the prevention of car crashes caused by the malfunction of automotive displays like speedometer and side mirrors.

    Rohm’s automotive chipsets for LCDs come equipped with a timing controller, gamma correction IC, source driver, and gate driver for driving high-definition (HD) and full high-definition (FHD) class displays. That allows the chipset to detect panel failures and provide feedback on information such as peeling and destruction of LCD driver.

    Timing controller, for instance, comes integrated with a failure detection function. Then, there is the power management IC, which ensures optimum drive operation by modifying itself through rewriting of the internal register value.

    So far, functional safety features have been mostly implemented individually in multiple systems. But that can create integration challenges for car OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. An integrated approach to implementing functional safety allows automotive designers to meet the changing security requirements in ADAS and autonomous car features.