ST Drives Up Innovations with Three Automotive Chips
STMicroelectronics has doubled down on chip-level automotive advances. Here is a roundup of three notable products.
In an attempt to meet the requirements of next-gen vehicles and their systems, STMicroelectronics (ST) introduced a host of new products to the automotive industry last month. Carmakers can employ these products to upgrade the performance of already-existing autonomous vehicles or to design next-gen vehicles.
ST has released several new automotive components, including the L9918 alternator voltage regulator, to enhance vehicle safety and performance. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
Some of the innovations include an alternator voltage regulator to stabilize electrical systems, an image sensor for driver monitoring systems, and a microcontroller to promote software-defined vehicles. This article unpacks the latest automotive innovations that ST is releasing to the market.
L9918 Alternator Voltage Regulator
Carmakers usually encounter stability challenges when designing a vehicle's electrical systems. ST claims it can eliminate stability problems in 12 V electrical systems with its new alternator voltage regulator, the L9918 (datasheet).
The device is equipped with an excitation high-side power metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) driver that delivers up to 13 A to the excitation coil of the alternator. It also features a freewheeling diode circuit that modulates the rotor current when excitation is turned off. Thanks to the closed-loop operation supported by the product, the voltage on carloads is kept consistent to a target point, even as the power demand changes.
The product incorporates a local interconnect network (LIN) bus interface. This allows easy communication between the regulator and the vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU). Consequently, the target point that keeps the voltage steady is communicated to the ECU via the LIN bus interface.
Block diagram of the L9918 alternator voltage regulator. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
According to the company, the L9918 alternator voltage regulator complies with the VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie) LIN alternator regulator specification. It is also AEC-Q 100 qualified and ASIL-B ready for use in functional-safety systems.
VD/VB1940 Hybrid Image Sensor
Next-gen vehicle systems must have an advanced safety system including driver-monitoring system (DMS) technology. ST’s new VD/VB1940 5.1 MP image sensor (databrief) supports such DMS with its 3D-stacked back-side illuminated (BSI) wafer technology.
Block diagram of the VD/VB1940. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
ST says that the image sensor can monitor the full vehicle interior and finds applications in passenger safety-belt checks, vital sign monitoring, child-left detection, gesture recognition, and high-quality video/picture recording. The DMS sensor can detect the driver’s alertness and use near-infrared (NIR) imaging to analyze the driver's head and eye movements in all lighting conditions.
The image sensor features rolling and global shutter modes. The rolling shutter mode allows the device to produce a single HDR color frame output through the MIPI CSI 2 interface. In this mode, the user can activate a function that converts the RGB NIR pattern to an RGGB format compatible with the vehicle’s ECU. The RGB pixels upscale the NIR image to a full resolution in the global shutter mode.
Like the L9918 alternator voltage regulator, the image sensor is also AEC-Q100 qualified.
Stellar P6 and P7 Automotive Microcontrollers
ST has also released the Stellar P6 and P7 lines of microcontrollers, the latest addition to ST’s Stellar series of MCUs. ST calls the new Stellar MCUs a game-changer in the series because they facilitate the transition to software-defined vehicles. The Stellar P MCUs find application in the drivetrain technology for electric vehicles and domain-oriented architectures.
The products are manufactured using power-efficient 28nm FD-SOI technology. According to ST, the Stellar P6 is the first in the industry to support the new high-data-rate in-car communication protocol, called the CAN-XL in-car communication standard, for the model year 2024 vehicles. Thanks to this protocol, the device ensures low-latency, high-safety communication among domains and in the peripheral actuation ECUs of the vehicle.
Block diagram of the Stellar SR6 P6 line. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
Furthermore, the Stellar P6 device incorporates six Arm Cortex R52+ processor cores and features non-volatile phase-change memory of up to 20 Mbytes. The device also has a storage facility for up to twice the 20 Mbytes for OTA reprogramming purposes.
Luca Rodeschini, ST's automotive and discrete VP, remarked that the MCUs integrate advanced motion control and energy management domains with actuation capabilities, ensuring a smooth shift from traditional ICEs/EVs to new drive-traction architectural patterns of software-defined vehicles.