The Integral Role of Oscillators in Modern Automotive Industry

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A man holding a tablet displaying a digital model of a car,  symbolizing technological advancement in oscillators.

Oscillators are fundamental components that generate repetitive signals, playing a crucial role in various technological applications. From telecom and wireless infrastructure to high-speed communications, these timing devices have been indispensable for decades. Clock generators, buffers, and oscillators are the unsung heroes behind countless networking and communication systems, ensuring that everything from internet services to complex industrial processes functions seamlessly.

Oscillators in Modern Vehicles

In the realm of modern vehicles, oscillators have taken on a new level of significance. Cars have evolved into high-speed networks on wheels, and without timing chips, they would cease to run. The internet itself would come to a standstill without these vital components. Two major trends are steering the future of semiconductors in the automotive industry: electrification and autonomous driving.

Electrification is being propelled by the adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs), with expectations of a surge in adoption over the next decade. This is driven by industry efforts to lower battery costs, improve charging capabilities, and extend EV driving range. Simultaneously, cars are becoming smarter, laden with sensors and intelligent systems. This enables the second trend: autonomous driving. Features like collision-avoidance detection, automatic parking, and lane-change sensors have become common in high-end cars, paving the way for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous driving, and smart telematics.

The Growing Demand for Oscillators in Automotives

An illustration symbolizing the integration of oscillators in automotive technology.

The combination of smarter, more connected vehicles and the rising adoption of electric automobiles has created a demand for sophisticated oscillators where timing is essential. From power management and driver assistance systems to entertainment features, oscillator-based components are at the heart of modern vehicles. And with the increasing complexity of modern cars, oscillators are set to become even more integral components in future automotive systems.

Increasing Demand for Automotive Oscillators

Automotive oscillators are integral to the optimal functioning of various electronic systems in vehicles, contributing to enhanced safety in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment, and car-to-home wireless connectivity.

The automotive industry is being reshaped by four primary trends: autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification, and shared mobility, known collectively as ACES. By 2030, the global automotive software and electronics market is projected to reach $462 billion, a significant increase from its current value. This growth is driven by changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and the rise of electric vehicles. As the industry evolves, software and electronics are emerging as central components, with the software market alone expected to more than double by 2030.

The heart of all intelligent and connected automotive electronics is accurate synchronization. The number of IC and sensors in vehicles has been increasing and is expected to continue to do so. This increase in computing power and connectivity requirements for automotive electronics is anticipated to surpass the overall growth of the automotive market.

In conclusion, automotive oscillators are essential for the functioning of modern vehicles, such as ADAS and wireless technologies. As the industry evolves towards more electric and connected vehicles, the need for oscillators will increase, necessitating investment in innovative technologies by manufacturers and suppliers to guarantee vehicle safety, performance, and competitiveness.

Trends Shaping the Future of Automotive Industry

  • Autonomous Driving: Autonomous driving, set to generate up to $400 billion in revenue by 2035, is transforming the automotive landscape. McKinsey's research highlights the potential benefits, including enhanced safety, increased productivity, and improved mobility for the elderly. As vehicles evolve towards full autonomy, precise synchronization becomes crucial, with components like oscillators ensuring accurate timing for advanced vision systems. Despite the promise, challenges like safety concerns and technological advancements need addressing for the industry to fully harness the potential of autonomous vehicles.

  • Connectivity: Connected cars use multiple communication protocols such as cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) to exchange information between themselves and with infrastructure such as traffic lights or road signs. These protocols need oscillators that operate at high frequencies within narrow frequency bands to enable reliable communication without interference from other sources.

  • ElectrificationAs mentioned previously, the shift towards electrification is increasing demand for automotive oscillators. With the use of sensors to monitor voltage and current levels in battery packs, electric cars need highly accurate timing components to ensure efficient operation and reduce energy losses.

  • Shared Vehicles: Shared vehicles tend to be used for longer trips than privately owned cars. This increases their exposure to wear and tear on the brakes and other critical components like the engine and transmission — which could lead to higher maintenance costs or replacement costs if those components fail prematurely.

Oscillators Used in Automotives

In the automotive industry, oscillators serve a pivotal and multifaceted role, underpinned by their high reliability and exceptional stability. Integral to the precise timing and synchronization demanded by modern vehicle systems, they enable accurate communication between different vehicle components and ensure the seamless operation of navigation and safety features. Given their wide operating temperature range, oscillators can function effectively in extreme conditions and environments, making them particularly suited for the automotive sector where conditions can vary drastically. As vehicles evolve, becoming more technologically advanced and laden with intricate electronic systems, the role of oscillators—known for their reliable operation even in the most demanding environmental conditions—becomes increasingly vital. They not only ensure synchronized data exchange and coordination of traffic-related information but also bolster overall safety and efficiency on the roads. This makes oscillators indispensable in the era of intelligent and connected vehicles.

Key Applications

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS): Oscillators are used in these technologies to measure the speed at which the vehicle is moving and assess the data collected from sensors, maintaining a stable clock frequency in order to ensure accurate readings. They also help in detecting obstacles in front of the vehicle and thus prevent accidents from occurring due to sudden braking or swerving. On top of this, they are also used for lane departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control — key aspects of ADAS.

  • Vehicle-to-everything (V2X): Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, underpinned by the 5G Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) feature, is revolutionizing the way vehicles interact with their surroundings. This wireless standard ensures enhanced communication between vehicles, infrastructure, and other entities like pedestrians, offering increased reliability and reduced latency. Today, as millions of vehicles connect to cellular networks for real-time navigation, V2X augments these connections, providing heightened situational awareness. It can suggest speed adjustments based on traffic data and offer instant GPS map updates. 

  • Battery Management System (BMS): Automotive oscillators are used in BMS to control the charging and discharging processes. The main function of the BMS is to monitor the state of charge (SOC) of the battery. This information is then used by the BMS to decide whether to charge or discharge the battery. The SOC is calculated by measuring voltage, temperature, current, and resistance.

  • Digital Cockpit: A digital cockpit is a system that provides drivers with an interactive display inside the car. It has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to its ability to offer safety and convenience features such as navigation, entertainment, phone integration, and more. To ensure optimal performance of these systems, high-precision oscillators are needed. They are used for measuring engine and vehicle speed, as well as for controlling other functions such as climate control, cruise control, and anti-lock brakes. 

  • GNSS/GPS: Automotive oscillators are integral to GNSS/GPS systems, ensuring frequency stabilization for precise vehicle positioning. Within GNSS receivers, these oscillators generate a reference frequency essential for coherently demodulating signals from multiple satellites. Advanced integrated multi-frequency GNSS technologies are emerging, aiming to provide decimeter-level positioning on a global scale, which is crucial for enhancing vehicle localization in contemporary applications. Modern frameworks are being developed to consistently access and utilize GNSS precise positioning information, supporting various positioning engines and correction services. This tight integration is designed to minimize latencies and maximize the performance of precise positioning solutions for next-generation vehicles. Given the stringent requirements of these systems, the frequency produced by the oscillator must be exceptionally stable, with certain receivers demanding even higher stability. In this context, automotive oscillators are crafted to meet and often exceed the performance benchmarks set by general-purpose oscillators.

Siward's Timing Solution in Automotive Industry

Modern vehicles necessitate components that excel in efficiency, performance, reliability, and quality. Siward's automotive solutions meet these demands, being AEC-Q200 qualified and compliant with the IATF 16949 certification. Their automotive oscillators are renowned for their high reliability and exceptional stability, operating seamlessly across a broad temperature spectrum, from -40°C to 125°C. This makes them ideal for various connected-car applications. These oscillators are available in multiple packages, ranging from 3.2 x 2.5mm to a more compact 2.0 x 1.6mm size.

Siward's extensive product line includes automotive-grade crystals and oscillators, such as MHz crystals, 32.768 kHz tuning fork crystals, and crystal units with integrated temperature sensors (thermistor crystals). They also offer standard oscillators with CMOS output, oscillators with minimal jitter and phase noise, and highly stable TCXOs in both CMOS and clipped-sine outputs. These components find applications in diverse areas, from in-vehicle infotainment systems (IVI) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication systems, encompassing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ultra-wideband (UWB), to GNSS/GPS systems, EV charging stations, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

Explore Siward's Range of Oscillators for the Automotive Industry and discover how they are shaping the next generation of intelligent and connected vehicles.

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