Infineon Semiconductor Technology Helps Makes Electrified Vehicles Greener, Smarter and More Secure

Bill Stewart, Infineon vice-president of automotive marketing for the Americas.

Electrified vehicles, whether hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full battery-electric powered cars and trucks, are growing in popularity exponentially. For this Expert Insight interview, SAE’s Automotive Engineering spoke with Bill Stewart, Infineon’s vice president of automotive marketing for the Americas, on how his company helps automakers meet climate and government pressures.

Automotive Engineering: Climate and government pressures are forcing auto manufacturers to develop greener cars that are more electrified. What role are semiconductors playing in the future of this green mobility?

Stewart: It’s more than just the climate and governmental pressures. Electrified vehicles are very fun to drive. I think we see a lot of consumer push in the market for that reason alone. Traditional gas vehicles today have about $500 worth of semiconductors. A battery electric vehicle today has roughly double that value, and it’s increasing. Infineon is here to drive decarbonization and digitalization across all industries, but we are very influential in the automotive space. An electric vehicle’s energy comes from a charging system. Lots of electronics involved. The battery must be managed so it can be put in a safe state and detect if anything is going wrong. You want to monitor state of health and detect any sort of thermal event through electronics. Infineon has the ability to convert that energy chain from the charger into a drive to work or taking your kids to school.

Automotive Engineering: There also is a growing demand for smarter cars using artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies for more autonomous driving. What is Infineon doing to deliver semiconductor solutions and technologies that drive more intelligent vehicles while maintaining dependability?

Stewart: If you put the vehicle into highway pilot, adaptive cruise control mode and it is not staying in its lane properly, or you feel you’re going to hit the vehicle in front of you, you’re going to turn off that feature. Dependable electronics enable those features so that they function as intended and the consumer ultimately feels safe.

We do that in three ways. First, with high-quality levels. You don’t want your engine light to come on and have to take the car to the dealership. That’s the best-case scenario with an AI failure. The worst-case scenario is the failure results in an accident.

Next is security. We have an entire division dedicated to connected and secure systems. We take a lot of consumer technology and implement it in the automotive space so that your vehicle is safe from such threats.

Finally, there’s functional safety. We use millions of lines of code to make sure that if something does go wrong, the system keeps you safe. The vehicle has a lot of hardware, it can be in a very difficult environment and there are going to be failures, at some point. Functional safety defines what happens when that failure occurs. Can the vehicle diagnose itself, and is there a redundant system to back it up and take over? We don’t want a failure that causes an accident.

Automotive Engineering: How is Infineon connecting the vehicle to smart cities while keeping it dependable and secure?

Stewart: The vehicle must sense its environment. It has connectivity mechanisms through 5G, through your cellular network, where it ultimately communicates to the grid. The vehicle must be able to detect its environment and safely diagnose its surroundings and determine which actions to take. Does it need an emergency braking action? Does it have to divert from one lane to another? The products we offer are designed to build your trust in the autonomous systems.

Automotive Engineering: As vehicles become more connected, what is Infineon doing to ensure security?

Stewart: Our microcontroller products have a hardware security module embedded, which protects all the memory in the device from hackers.

The hardware security module can encrypt all the network traffic, whether it is within the vehicle or kept in the cloud. This ensures that only those on the network are supposed to be on the network. We also have root of trust anchors, which provide a safe state for the vehicle.

A hardware-based route of trust uses different electronic modules to validate who they’re talking to and prevents a hacker from causing further harm. We also have a memory division working on providing secure memory, including to the high-end SOC-type processors.

Automotive Engineering: What is Infineon doing to ensure it is part of this drive to decarbonization and digitization?

Stewart: We want to enable more electric vehicles on the road. Autonomy also increases vehicle efficiency by helping avoid accidents and reducing traffic congestion.

Digitizing more of the vehicle and giving it more intelligence leads to more efficiency and ultimately more decarbonization. It starts with electronics in the powertrain, it goes to autonomous systems.

Watch the full interview with Bill.