Renesas to quadruple performance of next-gen auto chips

September 01, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The next generation of automotive MCUs will have to deal with complex tasks like autonomous driving. Therefore, chip designers from supplier Renesas currently are working on smaller geometries – 28 nm after today’s 40nm structures. Renesas plans to crank up performance and memory capacity four times higher compared to today’s 40nm devices.

For the development of the 28nm process technology, Renesas will again utilize the know-how from TSMC. With the agreement, the two companies continue their lasting cooperation.TSMC and Renesas have closely collaborated on MCUs with on-chip flash memory since the 90nm generation. Now, two generations later, the companies renewed their collaboration to attack the 28nm node on the semiconductor roadmap (note: automotive semiconductors are always one or two nodes behind the high-volume consumer electronics).

The renewed collaboration combines Renesas Metal-Oxide-Nitride-Oxide-Silicon (MONOS) eFlash technology with TSMCs high-performance low-power 28nm gate process. This combination holds out the promise of new applications such as sensor control for autonomous vehicles, coordinated control among ECUs, engine control units for better fuel efficiency and highly efficient motor inverter control for electric cars.

ECUs capable of safely controlling autonomous-driving functionality require next-generation control MCUs that contribute to fast processing of complex control tasks (including fail-operational capabilities, security, and support for coordinated control among multiple ECUs), power efficiency of the overall system, and functional safety. To meet ever stricter emission regulations, fuel-efficient engines for next-generation green vehicles require powerful computing performance to implement new combustion systems as well as robust and large-capacity on-chip flash memory to accommodate larger firmware programs. There is also a need for large-capacity flash memory to allow more fine-grained support for the environmental regulations and standards of various countries as well as to enable over-the-air (OTA) wireless updating of control programs.

With the 28nm eFlash process technology developed through the collaboration, MCUs can meet the demands of next-generation automotive computing by delivering up to four times the program memory capacity and greater than four-fold performance improvement compared to the current 40nm technology. Other enhancements on the new MCUs include the use of multiple CPU cores, more advanced security, and support for multiple interface standards.

MONOS is a structure in which each transistor in the flash cell consists of three layers—oxide, nitride, and oxide—on a silicon