automotive electronics

Automotive Electronics Keep Pace with Growing Flash Demands

Thanks to more powerful infotainment, navigation, and other onboard systems, today’s cars have increasingly higher data demands. Much of that data is being stored onboard, as latency makes it challenging to store all of a vehicle’s information in the cloud. Instead, flash devices embedded in cars are helping to store and manage the data being produced by advanced automotive electronics.

One company focused on programming flash memory devices is Data I/O. The enterprise writes firmware to help these devices run more safely and effectively in vehicles. We wanted to learn more, and sat down with Anthony Ambrose, who serves as President and CEO of Data I/O. Here’s what he had to say.

automotive electronics

Microcontrollers Keep Automotive Electronics under Control

“A microcontroller is a semiconductor device that allows you to execute code and instructions. It has its own flash memory included in the chip.” – Anthony Ambrose, President & CEO, Data I/O

Microcontrollers (MCUs) play an important role for vehicles to reach their best performance. They function as specialized, small-scale computers – not as advanced as a system on a chip, but more complex than a single circuit. These tiny, inexpensive devices are embedded in vehicles and direct the actions that onboard systems take. Since each MCU is usually given a specific task to carry out, the processors that run microcontrollers are typically less powerful – at times, 8 bits or fewer.

Data I/O helps program both microcontrollers and stand-alone flash. These tiny controllers are used in many different automotive systems: drivetrain, powertrain, infotainment, telematics and more. Designers of automotive systems are faced with finding the right balance of power, cost, and integration for their MCUs. Other factors such as voltage levels, memory layouts, and other technical specifications must be considered to reach desired performance standards.

automotive electronics

Continued Flash Memory Growth in Vehicles

Flash memory has seen steady growth in embedded automotive applications. As Anthony and industry experts1 point out, “The amount of flash memory [in vehicles] is growing. We’re rapidly approaching a terabyte of flash memory per car.” In other words, he estimates that the amount of flash in vehicles will double every two years or so. This rapid growth demands new approaches to flash storage capacities, interfaces, and performance.

There are a few onboard features that Anthony sees driving forward this expansion. These include:

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
  • Automotive Navigation Systems
  • Car Audio Systems
  • In-Vehicle Internet

Developments in autonomous vehicles also leave the door open for increased usage of flash memory. Self-driving cars are outfitted with sensors – Radar, LIDAR, and camera – such as to collect data about road conditions. This data is processed and analyzed by onboard computers to inform real-time driving decisions, potentially helping to save rider and pedestrian lives in the process.

Here’s what that means in a firm number. It is estimated that something like 4 terabytes of data per day will be generated by an autonomous vehicle based on an average driving time of about 1.5 hours. Now, all of this data would not need to be stored onboard. But, storing even a fraction of it would take a high volume of high-capacity embedded flash devices. And as cars get even closer to full, level five autonomy, the need for more storage will likely grow with it.

automotive electronics

Scaling Automotive Electronics with Data I/O

With its partners from industry, Data I/O has helped introduce new automotive electronics into the market quickly and at scale. It’s a union between automotive electronics, and the expertise that Data I/O brings in testing and programming flash memory devices.

“What Western Digital has done is introduce new products targeting the automotive industry with new interfaces – such as e.MMC and UFS. What Data I/O has done is work with Western Digital and other industry leaders to make sure we can program those devices on the existing platforms that automotive electronics Tier-1 companies already have.” – Anthony Ambrose, President and CEO, Data I/O

Data I/O works with a significant portion of the largest automotive electronics manufacturers in the world. This ecosystem makes the process smoother to integrate new flash storage with existing automotive platforms. In addition, scale can be reached more quickly in the manufacturing and deployment of automotive flash devices. Automotive OEMs can use these insights in up-and-coming storage technologies to extend their product roadmaps, and prepare for the release of future vehicles.

As new flash devices hit the market, OEMs can configure embedded flash capacities and interfaces to help provide faster performance and lower power consumption for vehicles.

Learn More about Automotive Technology

Find out how car connectivity uses new wireless tech.

Catch up on autonomous vehicle developments.

Explore the role of edge computing in future vehicles.


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  1. NAND Keeps Pace with ADAS Data-Storage Requirements.


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