Freescale Rolls Out Auto-Grade i.MX Processors for Infotainment

Freescale Semiconductor announced two auto-grade versions of the i.MX31 applications processor. Achieving the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) Q-100 qualification, the processors provide automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with a rugged solution to enable the features that drivers demand: hands-free phone operation, voice recognition and high-speed data transfers of voice and media. These processors drive seamless connectivity between consumer devices, such as cellular phones or portable media players, and the automotive environment.

Earlier this year, Ford and Microsoft announced the SYNC in-car communication and entertainment system, which is the first automotive application to be based on an i.MX31 processor. Ford 2008 model-year cars featuring the SYNC system are expected to be available in the United States later this month.

“Utilizing Freescale’s i.MX technology enables the Microsoft Auto platform and Ford SYNC system the ability to deliver the digital experiences that consumers expect in cars of the new millennium, at scalable software price points, with the quality and level of integration required by the automotive industry. We’re thrilled to be in partnership with Freescale,” said Mark Spain, Director Automotive Business Unit, Microsoft.

Based on the ARM11(TM) platform, the i.MX31 processors run high-performance in-vehicle communication and infotainment systems while providing up to 400 MHz processing speed and efficient memory systems, including L-2 cache. Meeting the stringent specifications of the AEC standard helps to ensure Freescale customers that the auto-grade i.MX31 processors will deliver a consistent level of quality and reliability within the demanding automotive environment.

The i.MX31 processors are equipped with dedicated multimedia accelerators to allow the processing power of the ARM11 core to be used for consumer-oriented software, navigation and other tasks. An example is the use of Freescale’s proprietary image processing unit to conduct rearview camera and viewfinder tasks with no central processing unit intervention. The i.MX31 processors operate at very low power, minimizing heat build-up in the dashboard.

“Freescale is bringing a new level of communication and entertainment capabilities to today’s car drivers with the introduction of its auto-grade i.MX31 applications processors,” said Richard Robinson, principal analyst, automotive electronics, iSuppli. “Based on technical know-how and innovation, Freescale Semiconductor has been the go-to solutions provider to the auto industry for years — it will be interesting to watch their presence grow in the dynamic automotive infotainment space.”

Freescale’s i.MX31 applications processors are engineered to deliver a robust central processing unit (CPU) for customers to capitalize on for their differentiating software. It provides excellent speech recognition performance due to its efficient memory architecture and the vector floating point unit.

The i.MX31 auto-grade processors are equipped to run multiple operating systems and application frameworks to support the different needs of the market and automotive OEMs. Operating systems supported include Microsoft(R) Auto, Linux(R) OS, QNX(R) Neutrino(R) and other leading RTOSes.

“We highly value our relationship with Freescale, and are excited to work with them as they increase their stronghold in the automotive market,” said Dave Curley, vice president of marketing, QNX Software Systems. “As in-car communication and entertainment systems evolve, the integration of Freescale technology with QNX software enables customers to maximize the capabilities of their multimedia devices for a productive, pleasant drive-time experience.”

i.MX31 Enhancements for Automotive Applications
The i.MX31 processors were enhanced to meet the rugged quality and reliability standards of automotive OEMs. For example, the auto-grade i.MX31 devices feature CPU speeds up to 400 MHz and the ability to operate within -40°C to 85°C temperature range. The processors come in a 473 MAPBGA, 0.8 mm pitch, ROHS compliant package.

Smart Speed(TM) Technology
The i.MX31 processor family leverages Freescale’s Smart Speed technology architecture, enabling designers to achieve parallelism that results in a low effective cycles per instruction (eCPI) metric and increased power efficiency. System parallelism is accomplished via the 6×5 Smart Speed crossbar switch that nearly eliminates wait states and enables the processor to drive equivalent performance to processors with clock speeds up to 3 GHz, but without the power consumption penalty that goes with higher operating frequencies.

The i.MX31 auto-grade processors are shipping commercially in volume and can be ordered through distributors or direct from Freescale. Operating systems supported include Microsoft(R) Windows(R) CE, Linux(R) OS, QNX(R) Neutrino(R) and other leading RTOSes. Suggested resale price for 10K quantity is $21.80 (USD) for the i.MX31LC version and $24.86 (USD) for the i.MX31C processor version with on-chip 3D graphics accelerator.

About AEC-Q100
In 1994, the AEC established the AEC-Q100 qualification standard, which is recognized worldwide as a benchmark for automotive systems. Electronic components that meet AEC-Q100 standards are deemed reliable, high-quality components suitable for use in the harsh automotive environment without additional component-level qualification testing.

About Ford SYNC and Freescale
Ford SYNC, based on the Microsoft Auto platform, is a fully integrated and updateable, customizable media system that allows car occupants to operate both Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and nearly all portable media players with simple voice commands or hand controls on the steering wheel. Developed with Microsoft, SYNC offers a new level of communications and entertainment convenience. SYNC lets users control and personalize electronic devices in their vehicle. An integral part of SYNC is Freescale’s i.MX31 processor, which runs the Microsoft operating system and applications, handle audio signal processing for hands-free phone operation and performs voice recognition. Additionally, i.MX31 chip uses USB technology to enable high-speed data transfer between the SYNC system and a mobile phone or portable media device.

About the i.MX Family
Freescale’s i.MX family of applications processors is designed for use in smartphones, portable media players, portable navigation devices, video surveillance, point-of-sale systems, bar code scanners and many other general purpose embedded applications. Based on ARM(R) core technology, the i.MX family is engineered with Smart Speed technology to deliver power performance while minimizing power consumption. Extensive integration helps reduce design time significantly. Freescale gives design engineers the power of choice with various i.MX processors: the i.MXS for price sensitive applications, i.MXL and i.MX21S for mid-range devices, and the i.MX21, i.MX27 and i.MX31 processors for high-performance scenarios. The i.MX family supports a broad range of platforms such as those based on the Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems, as well as a number of leading real-time operating systems. The i.MX processor packages are ROHS compliant.

About Freescale Semiconductor
Freescale Semiconductor is a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless markets. The privately held company is based in Austin, Texas, and has design, research and development, manufacturing or sales operations in more than 30 countries. Freescale is one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies with 2006 sales of $6.4 billion (USD).

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