Designing Resilient Electronics

Eliminating downtime in safety- and mission-critical applications

Growing Electronic systems in automobiles, airplanes and other industrial applications are becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex, required to perform an expanding list of functions while also becoming smaller and lighter. As a result, pressure is growing to design extremely high-performance chips with lower energy consumption and less sensitivity to harsh environmental conditions.

If this sounds difficult, it gets even harder from here. In the past, many of these systems relied on chips developed at older process nodes or, in the case of cars and airplanes, mechanical systems. But as more data is generated and processed under a wider range of operating conditions, particularly for mission-critical and safety-critical applications, the entire semiconductor ecosystem is being driven to develop IC designs that are more resilient to everything from extreme heat and cold to longer lifecycles and higher utilization rates within those lifetimes.

Electronics for Efficient high-performance IC design

The regular downscaling of CMOS technologies over the last few decades resulted in higher Integrated Circuit (IC) density and better performance. One of the major challenges with scaling planar MOSFETs over recent process technology generations has been in delivering on the high switching speeds in large SoCs(system on a chip) at decreased power consumption levels. To overcome these challenges, Multi-gate MOSFETs are designed and one of the most widely used and efficient is FinFET.  

High-performance chips with lower energy consumption are being designed on FinFET technologies.

System complexities are increasing across all verticals including industrial automation, automotive and aviation. “Historically, many of the required elements have been ‘single function’ which means they consume more physical space and weight, as well as consume more power. To help manage physical space, weight, and power consumption, we are beginning to see a trend where these functions are consolidated.”

For example, in the automotive segment ECU’s are being consolidated into domain controllers. Avionics is making the transition from single core to multicore SoCs. And manufacturing is combining multiple automation functions such as programmable logic controllers, human-machine interfaces and safety functions into a single box.

“This naturally drives a need for increased compute coupled with high safety integrity levels, while resulting in smaller footprint developments and requiring lower comparative power consumption and thermal designs,” said Stroud. “Designing a lock-step feature in application CPUs is a great example of a solution to this challenge, and Arm is continuing to work closely with the ecosystem to solve these challenges. Harsh environmental conditions add an extra vector to the design, and these can be augmented by additional measures added in at the silicon development stage.”

Resiliency in automotive

With so much focus on the electrification within the automotive ecosystem, there is a tremendous amount of attention being paid to resilience with vehicles, and the design infrastructure of automotive systems. Safety, reliability and quality are the primary goals of resilience here.

“Resilience applies to the capability of the system to continue operations in the space of some sort of disruption, and that’s a little different from the automotive goal of safe operation.

Multi-dimensional, multi-physics problems

Ensuring all of these works as planned is a multi-dimensional challenge. Today, with Level 3 automation, electronics account for 30% of the total cost of a car. That number could rise to 50% of the total cost with Level 5 automation, according to ANSYS. Self-driving and semi-autonomous cars will rely on an increasing number of electronic sensors such as radar, LiDAR, ultrasound cameras and fusion sensors, which are expected to provide 360° surveillance and object identification and classification to prevent crashes and ensure operational reliability.

The vast amount of data gathered by the sensors must be processed in real-time, and decisions must be made dynamically. For example, the automotive safety system needs to distinguish if there is a raccoon dashing in front of the car on a rainy night or a bit of blowing tumbleweed. And it must make this determination in milliseconds.

With the transformation of automotive electronics systems from a chip, package and circuit board perspective, along with the increasing sophistication of avionics, industrial automation, networking applications — resilient design is only becoming more challenging. The path forward must include an understanding of the design challenges, plans and systems for implementing resiliency, and novel chip-level approaches. Add to that list new ways to leverage IP for safety and security and implementing the right tools to cover all scenarios.