ON Semiconductor share their vision for 2019 and beyond

We are thrilled to have ON Semiconductor with us at AutoSens in Brussels this September, joining us as Lead Sponsors of the whole event. They have been on the AutoSens journey with us right from the very beginning and attended every one of our events. In this interview with Geoff Ballew, Sr. Director of Marketing Automotive Sensing Division at ON Semiconductor, we find out what ON Semiconductor have been up to this year, the most challenging sensing problems affecting their customers and the role they see China playing in the development of autonomous vehicles.

We caught up with you at the beginning of the year, is there anything new happening within ON Semiconductor almost six months on?

Our AR0233AT a 2.6 MP, 1/2.5-inch digital image sensor for ADAS and viewing automotive camera systems is now in production. As part of our Hayabusa™ image sensor platform which ranges in resolutions from 1.3 to 3.1 megapixels provides industry leading 120 dB of high dynamic range with LED flicker mitigation. Image sensors in the Hayabusa family of products feature the same pixel size, architecture, and benefits, delivering exceptional performance in all lighting conditions and allowing automakers to leverage the development of a core platform to create specific camera systems optimized for different vehicle lines. Samples can now be ordered either directly from ON Semiconductor sales representatives or through our distributors.

Back in January you mentioned that “ON Semiconductor has diligently executed on its plan to roll-out first internal samples of our new Radar mmIC. A full launch will most likely be completed by end of 2019. Watch this space…” is there anything more you can tell us?

Radar sensing is an integral part of ON Semiconductor’s strategy for ADAS and Autonomous Driving targeting high resolution, scalable, power efficient, and value optimized mmIC.  The company is executing on the plan, and is receiving interest in its unique RF capabilities for system level design optimization.

Offering a breadth of sensors is of great importance to ON Semiconductor and we wondered if you could touch upon what else you’ll be focusing on in the coming year? How much of a focus will in-cabin sensing play for you as a business segment?

While we offer tremendous breadth in our current sensor lineup, we continue to see increasing demands on the sensors themselves for a wider variety of safety tests as the NCAP programs include more testing for bicycles and pedestrians (VRU or Vulnerable Road Users) as well as tests for emergency braking in higher speed scenarios and more challenging conditions.  Those new test cases are design to increase safety in a wider variety of real life scenarios, so they require continued innovation and performance improvement in our sensors.  

In-cabin applications, both driver monitoring and occupant monitoring, are a huge area of growth because of a low attach rate today but increasing rapidly due to new safety regulations.  We are adding RGB-IR technology to our sensors targeted for DMS and OMS systems to ensure we have the breadth and depth in this new area that our customers need for the diversity of in-cabin applications and system implementation details.

What are the most challenging sensing problems/pain points affecting your customers at the moment?

Today’s automotive safety systems are meeting current published standards, however New Car Assessment Programs are developing and adding new requirements to safety certifications. There is a growing complexity of use cases that safety systems must deal with. Automated freeway driving is becoming more sophisticated. Higher resolutions and the ability to operate at greater speeds are required of automotive camera systems to recognize objects and potential safety issues at longer distances even in extreme lighting conditions.

Markets are also pushing for multiple uses for sensors satisfying both viewing and sensing applications. Customers today are asking for up to 140 dB high dynamic range for machine vision applications.

ON Semiconductor’s ADAS family of sensors including AR0138AT, AR0220AT with their large 4.2 µm pixel and AR0820AT with binned 2.1 µm pixel deliver extreme low light sensitivity and high dynamic range for the most advanced driver assisted systems requirements.

AutoSens has recently launched an edition in Hong Kong and we are proud to have ON Semiconductor as one of our Founding Partners. In terms of what’s happening in Asia, you joined Baidu’s Apollo Autonomous Driving Platform last year, and are you able to comment on how this platform is coming along and what ON Semiconductor’s role is? What role do you see China playing in the development of autonomous vehicles in the short and longer term?

We are excited to be a part of AutoSens in Hong Kong next year in 2020. ON Semiconductor has participated in every AutoSens to date. These events offer us opportunities to interface with our partners, customers and deepen our understanding of the technologies, organizations and momentum in sensing solutions for automotive markets.

Baidu’s Apollo system is widely regarded as the “Android of the auto industry”. Providing an open platform that is comprehensive, secure, and reliable all-in-one solution that supports all major features and functions of an autonomous vehicle. Apollo has attracted over 100 global and Chinese partners, including OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, developer platforms and technology start-ups. ON Semiconductor delivers a range of automotive qualified, CMOS image sensors for ADAS and Autonomous driving solutions and offers Apollo ecosystem partners priority access to our portfolio of automotive sensing products, product information and technical support.

Many Chinese companies are investing deeply in autonomous vehicle development, and adapting expertise and technology for AI and Deep Learning from other markets to tackle transportation challenges.  More companies, large and small, trying to solve these problems will lead to solutions more quickly….but the geographic diversity will also ensure that the uniqueness of driving in China, compared to other countries will also be addressed by these system.   Government investment and legislation to enable large-scale testing on public roads is also important to accelerating autonomous vehicle technology.

Just over a year ago, ON Semiconductor acquired SensL Technologies to add critical LIDAR components to their portfolio. What has been happening with the LiDAR-related business in the last year?

The LiDAR business is going strong. As well as the continued development of the SensL sensors for LiDAR, there is a concerted effort to leverage the expertise from other parts of ON Semiconductor to provide additional critical components to support the laser drivers, power supplies and sensor readout parts of a LiDAR system.

On the sensor side, we are making constant improvements to the detection efficiencies of our SiPM sensors. The upcoming RD-Series sensors are showing >10% PDE at 905nm. At the same time we have recently released our Pandion SPAD array. This features 400 x 100 pixels, making it the largest commercially available SPAD array. 

We were excited to recently debut this at AutoSens in Detroit as part of the Pandion Short Range LiDAR Demo system. We are now building on the success of this development and working towards a next-gen, high resolution, SPAD-based TOF image sensor chip for 3D ranging. The result will be something that is suited not just to automotive LiDAR but a whole range of 3D perception applications in industry, transport and robotics.

Head along to AutoSens in Brussels this September and join Lead Sponsor ON Semiconductor. Book your tickets here >>

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