Car infotainment systems need multi-output power ICs

March 11, 2013 // By Nathan Hanagami, Steve Knoth and Marty Merchant
Nathan Hanagami, Steve Knoth and Marty Merchant of Linear Technology examine why car infotainment systems need multi-output power ICs.

Background

The popularity of automotive infotainment systems continues to explode. Modern technological advancements such as satellite radio, touch screens, navigation systems, Bluetooth, HDTV, integrated cell phones, media players and video game systems have enhanced the driving experience. With over 50 million cars produced each year worldwide, the majority have some type of integrated infotainment system. From a power supply perspective, a basic infotainment console may require several low voltage power supply rails with several Amps of total current, and a premium console may require even more. Traditionally, these voltage rails and current levels have been supplied by a multitude of discrete power regulator ICs or large overly-integrated power management integrated circuits (PMICs). However, these large PMICs often have more rails than are needed, require a large circuit footprint and are usually under-powered for some of the rails. As a result, there is a need for a multi-output IC that can provide a small solution footprint with a configurable number of moderately powered rails. Furthermore, wouldn’t there be further benefit if this same IC could be configured a variety of different ways to accommodate changes in power requirements that might arise during the development process? Thanks to innovative circuit design, this type of IC is now a reality.

Infotainment power system design challenges

Electronic systems design for automotive applications is challenging for many reasons: space is highly restricted, the operating temperature range must be wide, noise must be minimized, battery transients must be tolerated and quality levels must be high. Since integration levels must be high, this in turn creates a need for power-efficient components. With today’s car dashboards so crowded with electronic systems, when combined with high ambient operating conditions it makes temperature monitoring a critical requirement, particularly when it comes to the operating temperature of the power management components. Alerting the system controller to an overtemperature condition allows software to mitigate an overheating problem by turning off less critical

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