TI Simplifies ADAS and EV Designs With One-Chip Sensing and Power Solutions
TI unveiled several single-chip automotive solutions at CES—one of which is the first automotive radar sensor for satellite architectures.
At CES 2024 this week, Texas Instruments (TI) announced several automotive devices that can replace complex systems with single chips. TI’s latest chips could offer a cookie-cutter solution for many designers focused on vehicle performance and safety standards.
The latest automotive chips from TI target satellite sensing and power management, allowing vehicles to become smarter and safer using single-chip solutions.
While fully autonomous vehicles are still far from being commercially available, OEMs are improving sensor and battery management system (BMS) technology for more efficient driver assistance. Commercially available radar sensors and power management subsystems, like TI's latest offerings, give designers more time to focus on new features instead of adapting old designs to meet new standards.
200-Meter Satellite Radar Sensing
In order to enhance advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), vehicles must sense their surroundings and make decisions. Typically, a combination of camera and radar sensors accomplish this sensing. Using a distributed signal processing approach, each radar sensor heavily processes data and sends the information to an ADAS electronic control unit (ECU).
A satellite approach, however, can improve performance by leveraging modern processing speeds. By lightly processing the sensor data and feeding this information into a central ECU that considers data from every sensor, advanced ADAS and sensor fusion algorithms can provide better performance.
The AWR2544EVM highlights the benefits of LOP and custom waveguide antennas (left), both of which improve directivity and range in what is normally a limited antenna system.
Much like previous generations of TI mmWave radars, the AWR2544 radar sensor (datasheet linked) includes a 5-GHz bandwidth with 8 total RF ports (4 TX 4 RX). Furthermore, the AWR2544 includes Launch-on-Package (LOP) support, where waveguide antennas can be directly mounted on the PCB to boost performance and maximum range using custom 3D antennas.
Single-Chip BMS Solutions
While radar sensors can preserve safety from outside threats, power management systems prevent catastrophic events caused by shorts. Among these systems, contactor (or relay) drivers and pyro-fuse drivers are critical for safety and efficiency.
In addition to AWR2544 radar sensor, TI has also announced the DRV3901-Q1 pyro-fuse driver and DRV3946-Q1 contactor driver to simplify vehicle power system development.
Battery management leverages contactors and fuses to remove power as needed.
The DRV3901 (datasheet linked) can efficiently control pyro-fuses to ensure faster blow times than melting fuses. It also constantly monitors the backup power capacitors to ensure that the pyro-fuses can still blow even after a power-loss event.
Simplified schematic of the DRV3901.
TI's second driver in this release, the DRV3946 (datasheet linked), efficiently drives contactors to connect or disconnect power from vehicle subsystems such as interior lights or heaters. This chip is designed to replace legacy economizers and offers a high degree of control to maintain efficiency. Programmable peak and hold currents ensure that the contactors can turn on/off quickly and safely without wasting power.
Simplified schematic of the DRV3946.
All three automotive chips—the AWR2544EVM radar sensor, DRV3901-Q1 pyro-fuse driver, and DRV3946-Q1 contactor driver—are available in preproduction quantities along with evaluation modules. TI will offer system-level demonstrations of these chips at CES 2024, highlighting how ADAS and BMS designs can benefit from them.
Simplifying System Design
While these chips from TI may not directly add new functionality to vehicle systems, the benefits of single-chip solutions could allow designers to focus less on qualifying custom designs and more on developing novel applications using the latest automotive processors. As a result, the chips may be used in new vehicle architectures to improve driver safety, vehicle response, and autonomy levels of next-gen EVs.
All images used courtesy of Texas Instruments