By: James Hawley, Automotive Product Line Manager, Micron Technology

According to Harvard Health Watch 2013, the average American spends 101 minutes driving per day. This creates a huge opportunity for the automotive electronics industry to deliver solutions that enhance the driver and passenger experience during this time. So it comes as no surprise that every major automotive manufacturer is developing new innovations for the connected car. The innovations receiving the most attention focus on driver and passenger safety. New applications like integrated voice recognition and hand recognition controls in infotainment systems and dashboard displays, as well as collision avoidance applications, are making cars safer—with the goal of someday creating a fully autonomous vehicle.

Active Response Systems Paving the Road to Autonomous Cars
Enhancing automotive safety means moving from passive-only systems for accident response—like lane departure warnings—to active systems for accident prevention. Active systems can take control of the car and support the driver in emergency situations. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) now offer features like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and night vision. However, future ADAS features will be even more advanced, helping drivers avoid collisions by automatically applying a car’s brakes or steering a vehicle back on track.

Focus on Accessibility

In addition to advancing active response ADAS features, accessibility is a key safety focus in next-generation cars. Providing drivers easier ways to access car controls continues to evolve and requires additional innovation. Over 10 years ago, BMW introduced their iDrive system with a controller knob mounted on the center console. iDrive was designed to simplify both functional and entertainment controls for drivers. Now, automotive manufacturers are delivering heads-up display (HUD) systems that provide driving information on the display. Some advanced HUD systems even understand a driver’s hand gestures.

Advanced Automotive Safety Features

From hand gesture to voice recognition controls, drivers are becoming more connected to their cars than ever before thanks to features like these:

  • HUD: HUD systems are becoming increasingly popular to help drivers keep their eyes on the road. Integration of forward-looking camera data enables the HUD to display relevant traffic sign data directly onto the windshield. Turn-by-turn directions can also be projected onto the windshield to help drivers find their destination.
  • User Configurable Dashboard: These thin film transistor (TFT) screens can be modified so drivers can see the most relevant information at a quick glance.
  • High Resolution Screens: The infotainment space is adopting 1080p screens today and potentially moving to 4K in the future, making it easier for drivers to see information on the dashboard.
  • 3D Capability: With future displays going to 4K, it also enables 3D capability in 1080p.
  • ADAS: ADAS communicate driver information via features like vehicle blind spot detection and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) connectivity.

The requirements for these advanced features include higher processing power, faster and more reliable connectivity, and significantly more memory. Data is at the core of how these new safety systems work. Whether it’s the ability to capture, analyze, and store more data in the car, or leverage real-time data, memory requirements in the automotive industry are experiencing exponential growth.

Automotive Memory Trends

Next-generation ADAS and infotainment systems are integrating even higher-performance, lower-power DRAM memory technologies, shifting from LPDDR2 to LPDDR4 by 2017. LPDDR4 provides twice the bandwidth over LPDDR3 while also achieving higher energy efficiency. With ultra-fast speeds (up to 3200 Mb/s), infotainment systems can enable 4K x 2K resolution and 3D graphics while ADAS  enable safe driving features like collision avoidance. Micron is already moving beyond LPDDR3 and building LPDDR4 into its automotive customers’ designs to ensure that next-generation systems have the performance they need to keep drivers and passengers safe.

Automotive Tailored Memory Solutions Are Essential

In addition to the need for sensors, signal processing elements, and image recognition engines, ADAS applications require both volatile and nonvolatile memory solutions specifically made for automotive applications. Memory devices contain all the underlying code, parameters, and data for these applications—making it crucial for memory to provide top-notch reliability, high density, speed, and performance, and low power consumption.

Automotive Memory Quality Requirements

Quality is imperative in automotive electronics. The critical nature of automotive systems leaves minimal margin for error. The automotive market’s unique quality requirements for memory devices include:

  • Reliability in Harsh Environments: Proven reliability at operating temperatures ranging from –40°C to 105°C—with new automotive requirements increasing the upper end of the operating temperature range to 115°C; Micron surpasses the 115°C mark by designing some of our automotive memory chips to operate in temperatures up to 125°C
  • Zero Defect Approach: Zero failures targeted over the product life cycle
  • Continuous Improvement Process: Persistent focus on improving the overall quality of new products and legacy products
  • Automotive-Grade Selection: Strict selection criteria throughout the fabrication, assembly, and test processes
  • Long Life Cycles: A 10 year minimum of product availability and support
  • Burn-In Flow: Testing to simulate the first year of product life, which is statistically when marginal products fail
  • Automotive Certification of Fab and Assembly Sites: Fab and assembly certification to ISO/TS 16949 standards
  • AEC-Q100 Qualified: Failure mechanism-based stress test qualification
  • Automotive Documentation:
    • Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) Documentation: Documentation of where the die is fabricated, parts are assembled, and testing is conducted—creating a formal return merchandise authorization (RMA) trail
    • 8D Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) Support: In-depth support with guaranteed timelines and clear steps for improvement

This level of quality performance is not easily achieved. Memory suppliers like Micron must have a dedicated quality and reliability approach specifically tailored to the automotive industry.

Automotive Memory Hits the Fast Lane

Dedicated memory devices are becoming increasingly significant in automobiles due to the adoption of infotainment and safety applications. Low-power DRAM (like Micron’s Automotive LPDDR4) along with DDR3 SDRAM, e·MMC, Parallel NOR Flash, and Serial NOR Flash products are fueling the memory needs in cars. It’s an exciting time to develop solutions for the automotive industry.

For information about Micron’s broad automotive memory solutions portfolio, visit

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