Manuel Haj-Saleh, Graphics Competence Centre Application Engineer at Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe, discusses the latest graphics display controller created for display applications in automotive, that are taking the driver experience to the next level

Today, the biggest challenge facing any technology is that of keeping pace with the growing demands of the industry in terms of requirements. Constant requests for more functionality and more efficient operation, performance and power consumption create a market whose players are all striving to deliver an appealing product to the end customer.

This is particularly true in the automotive sector, where such requirements also have to keep to an ever-tighter schedule. The need for more intuitive control of in-car features on the part of the user has also become a must: drivers need to be able to enjoy the full range of functionality the vehicle has to offer while staying safe at the wheel.

This has boosted developments in HMI (Human-Machine Interface), which aspires to create a complete user experience, not only in terms of ancillary features such as infotainment but with regards to key functionality offered by the instrument cluster and driver assist systems.

There is a need for modular, scalable solutions that are able to interact seamlessly and transparently with the end user. In this scenario, the display controller has a critical role to play

Graphics Display enhancement

Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe, has progressed its graphics display controller (GDC) MB88F332 ‘Indigo’ technology by developing its next generation MB88F334 ‘Indigo2’ (plus versions ‘Indigo2-S’ and ‘Indigo2-N’) which is a processor created for display applications in automotive.

Even though the trend is towards full virtual instrument clusters in motor vehicles, particularly for up-market models, the sector is still dominated by mixed systems, which show the required information to the driver by a combination of mechanical and discrete elements alongside graphical displays.

This latest GDC uses a standalone GPU (graphics processing unit) controlled remotely by a host processor through an APIX (Automotive PIXel link) interface. It uses the APIX2 version of this technology, which offers a bandwidth of 3Gbit/s for both video and control data from the host processor to the display controller, even over considerable distances.

The ability to transmit two uncompressed video streams with separate content (e.g. instrument cluster plus vehicle application, or separate rear seat entertainment videos) simultaneously and in real time is also possible. HDCP technology (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is also offered, which supports on-demand data encryption and decryption for copyright-protected material or for preventing unauthorised access to data.

Audio can also be transmitted via the video link, which can handle up to eight 32-bit audio channels (I2S supported). The Media Independent Interface (MII), which enables the application to use the APIX2 as an Ethernet PHY (physical layer), offers up to 100Mbit/s full-duplex Ethernet functionality.

The sideband link is a key component within APIX, as it is used to transmit and receive control data between the host processor and peripherals. The integrated A-shell (automotive shell) implements a dedicated protocol to ensure correct data packet addressing, facilitating access and control for display unit features.

The link is bidirectional, too: the device feeds all coordinates and states generated by instrumentation back to the head unit, where they are processed to generate an appropriate response.

The latest version replaces its predecessor’s sprite engine with a pixel engine based on a reduced version of the IRIS graphic core. It enables the blending of two picture streams (video from APIX plus in-memory graphics) and seamless switching between them. Graphic features are rounded off with two CLUTs (colour look-up tables), a dithering unit and a signature unit for functional safety (ASIL).

Memory and peripherals

As this device runs on a line buffer principle (i.e. the image is displayed line-by-line), no external frame buffer is needed for storing graphics before display. As a result, memory requirements are more economical. Internal memory consists of 32kB of Flash ROM plus 64kB of RAM, used to store command sequences for system and interface configuration as well as a small number of bitmaps (icons).

This latest GDC satisfies more ambitious industry requirements while maintaining cost efficiency. In a market as competitive as the automotive sector, this offers an unquestionable advantage.

Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe

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