Futureproofing vehicles – cameras and displays

Futureproofing vehicles – cameras and displays

Technology is being introduced to vehicles at a pace that has never been seen before and, while the latest vehicles have impressive and extensive features, they run the risk of becoming ‘behind the times’ very rapidly. One area that has changed significantly recently is the provision of fully configurable screens in vehicles. While many vehicles have had a single screen for the satellite navigation and infotainment for some time, it is becoming increasingly common that the instrument cluster is now a fully configurable display. In high-end vehicles there is often a third screen that replaces all (or most) of the buttons, knobs and switches.

By taking this approach, the function of the screens (and therefore the vehicle) can be altered with software changes, allowing additional functionality to be added, or ‘bugs’ to be addressed – often with over-the-air firmware.

Alongside this, many vehicles these days have some form of camera, most often a back-up / reversing camera as this is now mandated by law in certain jurisdictions. However, to promote road safety and driver convenience, multiple cameras are being added to vehicles to provide additional functionality such as object identification, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping, automatic headlamps and even monitoring the driver and passengers.

While the apparent pace of change is rapid, in some ways the automotive industry moves slowly. This is primarily due to the extensive testing, qualification and certification required for critical components such as electronic control units (ECUs). These may be ‘current’ for five years or more and, during that time, automotive-qualified peripheral components, including displays and cameras, may change – either to improve performance and resolution or as a result of a device becoming unavailable as manufacturers update their product portfolios.

In order to be able to upgrade vehicle specifications during ‘facelifts’ or to accommodate component changes for any other reason, ECUs for the cameras and displays will need the flexibility to accommodate a variety of video formats and resolutions. Many automotive video solutions are system-on-chip (SoC) that can accommodate a parallel video feed or the MIPI Alliance Camera Serial Interface 2 (CSI-2). Most CMOS cameras provide an RGB output and associated synchronization signals, which interface easily.

However, less sophisticated cameras such as those used for reversing or blind spot detection are often connected via a simple twisted pair that requires the use of a serializer-deserializer (SerDes) that allows the parallel data and control signals (such as I2C) to pass over the twisted-pair cable.

In these types of application, Toshiba’s TC9591XBG video bridge is an ideal device to convert the parallel signal from the SerDer to the required CSI-2 signal format for the SoC. Supporting a 1080P resolution at 60fps, the device consumes less than 80mW and can be configured using I2C interface, which is most likely already available. The parallel input supports 24-bit un-packed formats such as RGB888/666/565, RAW8/1/12/14 as well as YUV422 8-bit and 10-bit data formats, and a PCLK frequency of up to 166MHz. Even if the camera solution were to change over the lifetime of the vehicle, the video bridge can be reconfigured to accommodate.

To understand how these video bridges can be a valuable tool in providing futureproofing flexibility in modern vehicles, please download our comprehensive white paper:

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