What is Stella, and Car2X technology? And what does all this have to do with the future of connected cars? We spoke to Maurice Geraets, Senior Director, New Business, Business Unit Automotive at NXP Semiconductors to find out, and also to learn about how NXP is hoping to ensure the safety and security of the smart car of the future.
TechRadar Pro: Could you give us a brief background of NXP?
Maurice Geraets: Established in 2006, NXP Semiconductors creates solutions that enable secure connections for a smarter world. The electronics industry is being driven by four mega-trends that are helping shape our society: energy efficiency, connected devices, security and health. Addressing these mega-trends, NXP creates solutions for the connected car, cybersecurity, portable and wearable devices, and the Internet of Things.
TRP: Could you tell us about Stella?
MG: Stella is the world's first solar powered family car which was created by a group of students at the Eindhoven University of Technology. It is the first 'energy-positive car' with room for four people, a boot, and a range of 600 kilometres. The project was awarded Gold at the 2013 Cruiser Class of the World Solar Challenge.
Stella contains some of the latest automotive technology including an interactive steering wheel that signals if a dangerous traffic situation occurs. It uses NXP's Car2X technology – using the specialist automotive Wi-Fi standard, 802.11p – to send warning signals to other cars about potential collisions and other traffic dangers.
TRP: How is NXP involved in the automotive market?
MG: Almost all new cars in the world contain between one and dozens of NXP chips. Our chips help improve traffic safety, but they also make cars lighter and more economical, and allow drivers and passengers to enjoy their car infotainment system. NXP also leads the immobiliser market and continues to drive it, developing ICs for the next generation of remote keyless and passive entry systems.
TRP: Why does NXP sponsor Stella?
MG: When students from the Eindhoven University of Technology came to us with the plan to manufacture a family solar car that is comfortable, economical, and sustainable whilst meeting all the government safety requirements, we were immediately drawn to the project. Stella is a concept car that allows us a glimpse of the future of automotive industry.
TRP: What NXP technology is used within Stella?
MG: As well as sponsoring Stella, NXP's technology is used throughout the solar vehicle. NXP's LPC1759 microcontroller is used to essentially power the on-board computer in the car, as well as NXP's CAN (Controller Area Network) transceivers, which connect the various electronic devices and sensors that are integral to the modern car.
In combination with the NXP Car2X technology, this means that the sensors monitoring the important information like car speed and battery status can be supervised remotely by the mission control car. It also lets them communicate with local infrastructure to determine the speed limit as well as the phasing and timing of cooperative traffic lights. These elements allow large cities to significantly improve their traffic flow and enable cars to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
TRP: How will this technology shape the car of the future?
MG: There are various technological elements that will play a part in shaping the car of the future. At the heart of everything is Car2X technology – it will help improve traffic flow, reduce fuel consumption and more significantly help reduce collisions and traffic accidents.
Today's automobiles are equipped with thousands of sensors. Sensors in cars alert drivers via their dashboard to elements such as cruise control, driver door, seatbelt, etc. Also, heavy braking, strong acceleration and slips are registered by these sensors.