In The Era Of Driverless Cars, OTP Will Rule

Embedded memory with high security will be essential for connected vehicles.


Visit any car dealership these days and prepare to be amazed by the amount of electronics that comes standard with each car. That’s about to get even more evident as we head into the era of the driverless car, otherwise known as the connected or autonomous car. Who isn’t ready to leave the driving to electronics?

The typical driver won’t be all that interested to learn that embedded memory will keep it secure from hackers at any temperatures, including both cold and hot extremes. Yawn! They will care, though, that it’s unlikely to be hacked while being driven on the highway. They’ll be relieved that they won’t need to store car keys in the freezer to prevent break-ins and delighted to learn that cars will detect distinct fingerprints of the owner and other legitimate drivers for authentication. Embedded memory with high security will keep them safe.

Yes, embedded memory with increasing capacity is about to play a crucial role in the onboard electronics of these new-generation autos predicted to be on the road within three years. More specifically, one-time programmable (OTP) non-volatile memory (NVM) is becoming the embedded memory of choice for a variety of important reasons. In fact, it’s a great candidate for memory in automobiles, though we’ll focus on three key features.

Unlike embedded Flash memory, OTP handles extreme heat well. Both do okay with cold temperatures as low as -40° Celsius. But OTP works to 125° Celsius, while embedded Flash memory typically only supports to about 85° Celsius. With mechanical areas in the car reaching extreme temperatures and a need for memory that doesn’t fail, OTP is a better choice.

Security is another example because vital information will be stored and must be kept secret, especially as fingerprint recognition becomes the way in which a connected car is enabled. Security features built into OTP will deter hacking, carjacking and protect personal identification, capabilities that are not as robust with embedded Flash memory. Embedded Flash memory is easier to hack. In one case, a forward-thinking OTP vendor added extra security features with encrypted code for another layer of protection.

Rarely does scalability come up in a discussion about embedded memory for the driverless car, but it’s significant nonetheless. These cars will have loads of functionality with more and more to come in future generations. Performance has become a watchword for the chips powering them and, as a result, they are being designed at advanced nodes. In some cases, it’s 28nm HKMG or even down to 16/14 nm finFET. OTP has been proven to be reliable in finFET processes, while embedded Flash memory doesn’t go below 40nm, at least not before 2017.

In the era of driverless cars, OTP will rule. It’s a huge opportunity for this highly versatile memory and the best choice for memory in automobiles because of its tolerance of extreme temperatures, security features and scalability. In other words, for connected cars, OTP has a lock.

Read our whitepaper, “A Comparison of Embedded Non-Volatile Memory Technologies and Their Applications” to learn more.