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Harnessing PCIe® 3.0 For In-Vehicle High-Speed Connections

By Jen Lee, Connect ASIC Product Marketing Manager

As cars increasingly add new electronic capabilities and applications (such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), intelligent cockpits, telematics, and infotainment), the in-vehicle systems must keep up. There are an increasing number of sensors providing data, including imaging, mmWave, and lidar. All this data must be processed, thus requiring high-performance multi-core processors, as well as being moved around the vehicle with high-speed connections—with no compromises in safety or reliability.

To meet these requirements, there is a transition underway in the automotive industry from the traditional model of distributed electronic control units (ECUs), to instead adopting an architecture based around centralized domain compute modules.

A car from a few years ago might have contained something between 40 and 100 ECUs. Today, these functions have been consolidated onto systems-on-chips (SoCs) for each domain, such as the controllers for ADAS, infotainment, and powertrain management.

Looking ahead, the next step will likely to be a shift towards a zonal architecture, where data and processing are handled by local gateways that then feed a central controller. With the industry moving towards autonomous vehicles, the performance requirements will continue to grow rapidly.

These changes mean that there is a need for high-performance, flexible, and energy-efficient interconnection components in today’s connected vehicles. These components must also be reliable and automotive-compliant, as well as standardized to ensure interoperability.

PCI Express® (PCIe®) has become a popular choice for automotive high-speed connections. PCIe provides the bandwidth needed, alongside ultra-low latency. As it is a widely adopted standard, there is a clear roadmap and a large ecosystem of hardware and software vendors that help to reduce development costs, improve flexibility, and increase the security of the supply chain.

To meet the demands of next-generation, in-vehicle high-speed interconnection, Diodes Incorporated has launched the PI7C9X3GxxxGPQ series. This is a family of PCIe 3.0 automotive-compliant packet switches for connected driving applications.

Four variants are available, offering from 6 to 16 ports, and from 6 to 32 lanes. This range of options gives designers additional flexibility and makes it easy to configure a system for different needs, thus saving time in project development. An integrated clock buffer also helps make design easier, saves space, and reduces bill-of-materials (BoM) cost.

The architecture used in the packet switches enables flexible port configuration with upstream, downstream, and cross-domain end-point (CDEP) ports being assigned according to requirements. Their typical latency is only 150ns.

The switches are compliant with the automotive AEC-Q100 Grade 3 standard and are designed for in-vehicle high-speed connection across a wide temperature range of -40°C to 85°C. Advanced power management features reduce energy usage.

Overall, the new PCIe packet switches deliver the performance, reliability, and flexibility needed for today’s automotive applications.

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