Automotive display controllers support advanced graphics

September 20, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Toshiba Electronics Europe (TEE) has launched three new intelligent display processors for automotive instrument clusters with TFT LCD sizes from 3 to 8 inch. The Capricorn-Bt0, Capricorn-Bt1 and Capricorn-C0 – which feature the automotive industry’s fastest ARM Cortex-R4 core – can manage advanced graphics and conventional stepper motor gauges from a single IC. In addition, the devices help designers to reduce the external memory needed for image storage.

The new Capricorn derivatives combine a high-performance ARM Cortex-R4 core running at 300MHz with on-board graphics engines and a built in graphics display controller (GDC). An integrated intelligent stepper motor controller allows each device to also drive instrument gauge needles on speedometers, rev counters and similar conventional instruments. The devices can deliver 3D-style effects without the expense of a 3D GPU.

The Capricorn-Bt0 IC supports a single display, while Capricorn-Bt1 and Capricorn-C0 have two independent display controllers. This makes the Bt1 and C0 suited for instrument clusters with two displays or, for example, designs that combine a cluster TFT LCD with a head up display (HUD). A built-in '2.5D' graphics accelerator supports key graphics functions such as warping, blitting, scaling, drawing and perspective transformation. The latter makes 3D effects including ‘Cover Flow’ and mirroring possible, realizing true perspective viewing. Hardware bitmap rotation with an angle resolution of just 0.1° precision combines with high-quality filtering and a patented stroboscope compensation technique for the smooth graphical representation of dials, rapidly rotating pointers and other animations.

Toshiba has expanded the image handling capability of its latest Capricorn processors through support for ‘on-the-fly’ decoding of the high-compression PNG data format. Implementing a multiple stream PNG decoder engine allows direct use of PNG images for graphics operations and direct display. This reduces memory and bandwidth requirements. Use of the MagicSquare dithering unit IP helps to further reduce cost by making it possible to realize perfect dithering of 24-bit graphics on an 18- or 16-bit display.

The new Capricorn devices incorporate a variety of safety features including a display read-back function, protection in accordance with AUTOSAR (Automotive Open System Architecture) 4.0, and error correction (ECC). Each device also incorporates Toshiba’s Security Module (TSM) supporting SHE (Secure Hardware Extension). This IP was developed at the company’s European LSI Development Centre (ELDEC) and meets standards aimed at protecting vehicle electronics against hacking, tampering and software theft.

The Capricorn-Bt0