The Key to a 'Cool Car' Is a Cool Key – NXP

January 09, 2015 // By Junko Yoshida
The car key is seemingly destined to become the most visible object differentiating one car brand from another, thus cementing the bond between carmakers and car owners. At least, that’s the expectation of car OEMs -- and NXP Semiconductors is banking on it.

The Dutch chip supplier, known for its prominence in the keyless entry and immobilization IC market, unveiled a new smart-car access chip integrating passive keyless entry, a RF transmitter for remote control, and an immobilizer in one package. The new chip, dubbed NCF29A1, has been sampled by Tier Ones and car OEMs, said Lars Reger, vice president of strategy, new business, and R&D for the automotive business unit at NXP. “You'll be able to see cool cars fitted with innovative keys in 2015.”

The NCF29A1, which comes with a variety of upgraded features, including an ultra-low-power programmable microcontroller core, allows car OEMs to make car keys sexier than the remote key fobs that have become ubiquitous and boring. Reger described his potential “cool car.”

When a driver with the new improved key in pocket, briefcase, or Maxwell Smart shoe-heel approaches his car, the car picks up the key’s unique vibe from a range of five to ten meters. The car responds by hitting the welcome lights. (The car shines “orange” lights for its primary driver and “pink” lights for the driver with a second key.)

Once the driver touches the door handle equipped with capacitive touch sensors, the car awakes and unlocks the door. Once inside a car, the driver simply pushes for ignition and liftoff.

According to NXP, myriad features reside in the NCF29A1. These include the superior sensitivity of the low-frequency front-end, in which low quiescent current enables best-in-class battery lifetime. Distance bonding restricts the activation range for safety-critical remote control functions. It is the combination of transponder, UHF Transmitter, and RISC Controller on the same chip that enables new safety and security features. It accommodates a wide range of regional sub-1GHz frequencies from 310 MHz to 447 MHz (868/915 MHz upon request). It allows multi-channel RF transmitter operation for robust operation and key localization (within 5 cm) with a 3D LF interface.

The highly integrated chip allows