STMicroelectronics is enabling growth of Digitalization and Electrification with its innovative Automotive MEMS Sensors

STMicroelectronics presented its vision for automotive MEMS and sensor and the future-ready products in an online media event. ST unveiled its innovative High Sensitivity image sensors for in-cabin monitoring and Mirrors for low-cost LiDAR in an event. The presenter Davide BRUNO serving the Asia Pacific as the Head of Marketing and Application for MEMS Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group (AMS) from STMicroelectronics discusses general trends in automotive, the opportunities for automotive sensors and the most significant, ST’s views on how these sensors will be adopted in the automotive market. Below are some takeaways from his presentation.

Moving Towards Digitalization and Electrification

The automotive market can be split between the traditional automotive core electronics and digitalization and electrification. Currently, the total available market (TAM) for traditional automotive is 65% while digitalization and electrification serve only 35%.

Looking at future, with fast growing pace of developments and new technologies, it will just take 3~5 years from now, to change the TAM ratio of traditional automotive core electronics which will be less than 40% to digitalization and electrification which will enjoy more than 60% of TAM.

Davide explains, ST is already equipped for the major shift towards digitalization and electrification with its SiC device, ADAS vision, ADAS radar, networking or the 5G technology, positioning connectivity and so on.

Shared Mobility and Car Connectivity Becoming a Social Need

One can notice major drop in automotive market due to pandemic situation but it has also accelerated Car electrification and shared mobility. This will change traditional automotive model and many OEM and Tier 1 will reconsider the way to serve the consumer and the people that will buy the car. This opens up a lot of opportunities for ST in terms of products including sensors.  Davide said, “We foresee that for 2024, the total portion of electric vehicles will be in the range of 37% or let’s say 40%.”

Automotive Sensor Opportunity and 4 Mega Growth Drivers for ST

The automotive product is comprise of lot ofsystems and sub-systems including camera, LiDAR, long range radar, short range radar and ultrasound for an automotive and so on. The system is very complex therefore the fusion of all these sub-systems and sensors is a very vital aspect.

ST 4 Mega Growth Drivers

Davide stated, For ST, we have identified 4 mega growth drivers. The first one is the shared mobility and access control. The second one, Road Noise cancellation, aims to give the passenger a better experience by reducing noise on the road. The third and fourth is about 5G and driving assistance which helps in enabling a shift from level 4 to level 5.

ST has key technologies to support each one of growth driver:

  1. For Shared mobility and access control: Sensors with low power consumption.

ST has the lowest power consumption accelerometers, which enable applications like passive key entry. 

  • For Complex road noise cancellation: A system with a mix of sensors

ST offers OEM solutions that consist of 4, 6 and 8 microphones in addition to the 4 accelerometers for the 4 wheels of a car.   The system with accelerometer used for detecting the wheel vibration, microphone to sense and capture the acoustic noise inside the cabin.

  • For 5G Connected Cars: ST has been a pioneer on V2X/TBOX/CAR ALARM technologies.
  • For Driving Assistance – A game Changer
Davide Bruno, Head, Marketing and Application, MEMS Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group (AMS), Asia Pacific, STMicroelectronics

ST has product to address this market. Davide explained, “We are not only present at the moment you buy and drive your car, but also when the car is produced in the production line. The inclination and how the radar is installed in the car are very important. That is why we are selling specific devices for the inclination or stabilization for the radar at the moment of the car production, in the production line.

More fusion is needed between different sub-systems for the autonomous driving

In general, in 2040, the majority of cars will be fully automated and that will need more than 30 sensors to work, in intraoperative way and altogether hence more fusion.

ST believes one third (33%) of the cars that will be produced in 2021 will be at the level 2 and level 3 which is a big jump from level 1

Sensor Adoption in Automotive

The sensor adoption can be summarized in three waves according to Davide.  The  first wave of sensors include the pressure sensor, the driver-side airbag, the dual front airbag and so on. When infotainment system emerged in cars and several more sensors were used we call it the non-safety application. Between the active safety and non-safety, we call it the 2nd wave. The 3rd wave starts with active safety, because active safety is part of the autonomous car. It is this wave that we are now designing with all the Tier 1 and OEM car makers.

ST Offerings from Moving Towards First Wave to the Second Wave

As for the safety application, ST is present in the airbag market. For Non-safety, it involves telematics, navigation and passive key element. We are recognized worldwide as the No.1 maker of non-safety applications, Davide adds. Non-safety applications somehow define the 2nd wave.  ST has a very simple and rational product portfolio that is able to address all non-safety applications.

Microphone is A Very Interesting Product for Automotive

First of all, there is no automotive standard for microphone. ST is one of the pioneers that want to understand the microphone performance that will fit the automotive application. Today we see clearly that 4 kinds of applications drive the demand for microphones in automotive. They are the hands free call, and noise cancellation with a lot of microphones inside the car, the emergency call and the in-car call applications. The MP23DB01HP is the industrial grade product we offer to our partners and customers.

Answering How ST is going to approach the safety market? Davide answered,” In particular, we are in the airbag market, which is already quite saturated. The growing markets are the roll detection and ADAS/autonomous driving.”

For Sensor sensitivity, accuracy, stability and the linearity are main parameters for sensors while  accuracy, linearity, and stability are more challenging.  Shifting from level 0 to level 3, most of the OEMs and Tier 1 are using redundancy configuration for the inertial modules or sub-systems.

Instead of using only one device, several devices (all same) are put together and operate in the minimal error. Clearly, this is at high cost and it is very complex because you need to have several devices to operate together.

Talking about future, Functional safety is something defined by each different OEMs, depending on each element/component of the subsystem. It can also not be at the sensor level, but more on the overall system level. There are 4 level, A, B, C and D for ASIL, the most stringent is ASIL D. Today, most of the 6 axis are ASIL B. The target is to achieve ASIL D, to make the overall system safer and simpler.

ST Latest Inertial Module Unit

ESC (electronic stability control) has been installed in cars since many years ago but today the car makers are focusing on rollover detection and stabilization also. ST is offering customized solution to its customers by providing 3 degrees of freedom, 4, and 5 degrees of freedom, or different combination of DOF to address ESC, Roll over and stabilization.

 To achieve customization, the mechanical part alone is not enough, packaging plays a key role in MEMS sensor for automotive. Ceramic package is the future for automotive as it  gives more stability and better linearity. Davide further added,” We believe that the ceramic package is the future for automotive when we talk about safety.”

Solving the Real Challenge of Achieving Calibration   

Today, the real challenge is the combination of accuracy, stability, linearity and the time needed to calibrate the sensor to achieve higher level of accuracy over time.  

ST is working with its internal team and key experts and leaders (many of them are from China) in the packaging and defining methodologies for the calibration and testing with expert of automotive sector.

How ST is helping automotive industry and saving lives?

ST proposed a completely new family of image sensors especially engineered to add high resolution vision to machines. Under this, ST is providing different Mega pixels options together with the proper processing and systems to recognize the degree of attention from our eyes and facial expressions when we drive. So the system will enable us to pull over, stop the car, and take a rest.

The key drivers for autonomous driving in the future

Lidar is an enabler for the autonomous driving due to its compact and cost effectiveness. ST MEMS Mirror lowers the cost of Lidar. This mirror is real mirror made by semiconductor which has very small form factor. Semiconductor process has made this possible; it enables components to be very small, reliable, and very cost effective through high volume production.

ST is cooperating with the well-known company Leddartech, and has provided them the system made by MEMS, mirror and optics, in this slide called Emitter Submodule thus pushing the LiDAR solution in the market.

The briefing ended with some questions and answers.

Electronics Media: What role MEMS plays in safety features for automotive? 

Davide Bruno: I like this question because I feel ST is helping to improve the safety of everybody in the car. The MEMS sensors are the core of autonomous driving like it was for the Airbag system when it was introduced with MEMS sensors. Being the sensing system of a car, sensors can detect the environment around the car. In the past, the car was a very static element which consists of wheels, engine and steering, and it is not able to do anything smart. Today, the car can park by itself, understand whether you are crossing the lane or not, and even drive by itself. This is done by sensors. Without sensors, you cannot do these things. So sensors are the core of safety and the core of autonomous driving.

The MEMS sensors are not only the core of safety in preventing rollover and enhance stability control for a car, they also check on us. So if you are falling asleep, or not driving under perfect conditions, you will be alerted. The sensor is part of the system that helps us to arrive from point A to point B alive, safely and comfortably.

Electronics Media : How ST is helping the design engineer to solve the issue of folding dozens of sensors into a single model?

Davide Bruno:  Lets distinguish the sensors. As we said the autonomous car of the near future will have several sensors of different kinds LiDAR, S/L Range Radar, Acoustic Sensor,etc, probably made by different sensors makers and without a real standard in the way these sensors need to coexist. For this category of sensors, MEMS group is not involved because MEMS sensors and MEMS actuator are used inside each LiDAR or ESC, or ABS or ROS unit and ECU (Electronic Control Unit). Clearly the challenge mentioned here to the design engineer is very real and several companies are already providing their own real time OS and software tool for the fusion sensor in the autonomous driving field: the approach is very similar to the API of standard Operative System.

If we just look at ST MEMS sensors, we already help the design engineer giving them a set of library and a common platform where several MEMS sensors can be tested in easy way. We suggest to refer to our NUCLEO or X-NUCLEO boards available in

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