ST chips fuel “democratization” of instrument cluster

November 22, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Full-digital instrument panels, until recently an attribute of high-end vehicles, are among the most coveted features of today’s cars, and designers at OEMs and tier ones are working to make these features affordable for volume cars. With its Accordo 5 family of automotive processors, STMicroelectronics fuels the trend of offering sophisticated electronic features in entry and mid-range vehicles.

ST’s new Accordo 5 family of automotive processors meet crucial display-performance and security demands in a low-power compact platform suitable for lower-cost vehicles. The devices enable state-of-the-art digital instrument clusters and Audio/Video/Navigation (AVN) head units to become more affordable by integrating the complete graphics, video, and audio functionality on-chip to reduce design costs and simplify assembly.

Accordo 5 devices provide features that have high value for car drivers, including smartphone mirroring that gives access to content such as music and navigation services on the phone safely through the vehicle’s own user interface. The host processor and high-performance video and graphics engines can present complex information displays, such as simultaneous user-interface plus rear-view camera with navigation and video preview. There is also video playback for major formats including H.264 and DivX, 2D and 3D graphics with effects such as blending and overlays, as well as USB connections and SD-Card interfaces.

Less visible to users, but indispensable for today’s increasingly connected cars, these chips integrate a high-performance microcontroller that secures the interface between the head unit and the main vehicle network. Built-in features of this microcontroller include boot-code authentication, secure interconnect, and high-performance data encryption.

“Replacing conventional dials, switches, and indicator lamps with advanced graphical instrumentation gives drivers more convenient access to information about the vehicle and surroundings, and digital head units can enhance safety and convenience. By integrating state-of-the-art features in a cost-effective single-chip solution, our Accordo 5 family enables car makers to deliver such benefits to more customers in more markets than before,” said Fabio Marchio, Automotive Digital Division General Manager, Automotive & Discrete Group Vice President, STMicroelectronics.

The Accordo 5 family is the latest generation of ST’s Accordo line and leapfrogs other digital-infotainment chips, leveraging ARM Cortex-A7 processor as the main computing CPU. The Cortex-A7 architecture is said to be highly area-efficient, and therefore cost-effective, with high processing and memory-streaming performance. The Accordo 5 range gives designers a choice