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SanDisk is focusing on automotive applications with its first AEC-Q100-certified flash parts.

SanDisk targets infotainment with automotive-grade flash

Conventional vehicle radios are morphing into increasingly powerful infotainment systems, prompting a need for storage to hold apps, navigation, and other data. Flash storage supplier SanDisk is beefing up its automotive portfolio with automotive grade chips and memory cards to satisfy that need.

The memory maker has sold commercial products to automotive companies for years, but has relied on buyers to qualify parts to their environmental requirements. SanDisk is now producing AEC-Q100-certified products.

“We’re focusing more on this market, so we’re offering automotive-grade chips and modules,” said Martin Booth, Director of Product Marketing at SanDisk.

SanDisk will package these automotive-grade flash memories with controllers and firmware, as it does for commercial markets. Most modules for this industry will probably use the embedded Multimedia Card (eMMC) format rather than the SD and microSD formats used in cameras and other consumer equipment.

“I do not believe removable SD and microSD cards will be the major portion of the automotive market,” said Luca De Ambroggi, Principal Analyst Automotive Semiconductor at IHS Technology. “In the future, software and map updates will come over the air with no real need for removable and ‘unsecure’ solutions.”

He predicted that revenue from non-volatile memories will top $1.5 billion in 2019-2020. SanDisk’s Booth noted that several factors are driving the rapid demand for storage. Micron Technology, which also provides AEC-Q100-certified flash memories, upgraded its line with solid-state disks and eMMC cards last fall.

“[The need for storage] will go higher with improved voice recognitions, going to 64 gigabytes (GB) and beyond,” Booth said. “Natural language voice recognition can go up to 128 GB. That’s in addition to 8-16 GB for maps in the U.S., even more in Europe because they need multiple languages. The connected car and apps will also require a lot of memory.”

Booth noted that the automotive-grade devices have traits beyond temperature grading. Enhanced low-voltage immunity, provided for both modules and conventional packages, is an important factor for automotive applications.

“If the battery voltage drops while the device is writing, for example when cranking the starter during a write, it could damage the memory device if enhanced protection wasn’t provided,” Booth said.

Booth isn’t predicting the auto industry’s preference for soldering packages to circuit boards or plugging eMMC modules into sockets.

The advantage of having a card is flexibility, but soldering directly removes the socket, which provides a slight improvement in reliability, he said.

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