Tag Archives: vehicles

SmartWood goes old school on Kickstarter

SmartWood – which recently hit Kickstarter – is a lineup of smartphone controlled models powered by Atmel’s ATmega8 microcontroller (MCU).

“No technical skills are necessary to assemble and use a Smartwood model, even if you’ve never built a robot before,” a SmartWood rep explained. “It’s affordable, readily expandable and the perfect hobby to do with your kids or even on your own.”

Aside from Atmel’s ATmega8 microcontroller, key technical specs and features include:

  • Onboard 5V regulator
  • Power supply voltage: 5-9V
  • DC Motor Driver up to 2A per channel
  • Supports up to 8 Servos
  • Built in LED connected to D13
  • Battery level monitoring
  • Master on and off switch
  • Compatible with the Bluetooth Module supplied with the controller

Currently, the following five SmartWood models are available on the crowd funding website: MiniBot, Crawler, Dragster, Truck and a Kickstarter special edition vehicle.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered SmartWood? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

AutomoBlog features Atmel’s AvantCar concept

Earlier this week, Atmel showcased its AvantCar curved touch screen console concept at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. As Atmel Marketing Director Stephan Thaler notes, the exhibit demonstrates the future of human machine interface (HMI) in upcoming vehicles. 

Indeed, the fully functional console features two large curved touchscreen displays – without mechanical buttons. Instead, the touchscreens integrate capacitive touch buttons and sliders, allowing users to navigate general applications typically found within an automotive center console.

Atmel’s CES 2014 AvantCar demo was covered by a number of publications and journalists during the show, including Chris Nagy of AutomoBlog.

“No longer accepting that a touch interface or screens must be flat, convex and concave shapes could be commonplace. The majority of devices [at CES 2014] showing off curved displays are smartphones and televisions. However, one company at CES is marketing the potential of curved touch controls in future automotive interiors,” writes Nagy.

“Atmel has brought an array of ideas purposing to change the way driver’s interact with their cars. Exhibited on their AvantCar concept, Atmel’s high-tech interior features reveal several advancements meant to make the interaction with vehicle controls more natural and attractive. While Atmel’s local interconnect networking systems will probably appeal fascinating to automotive engineers, a large touchscreen with an ultra sensitive, high response rate exhibited within the AvantCar’s center console can easily entice the broad audience of gadget-loving motorists.”

In his AvantCar article, Nagy also highlights the importantl role Atmel’s XSense technology plays in the demo and beyond.

“Employing a surface utilizing metal mesh technology, the XSense touch sensor residing inside an automobile could greatly contribute to sound ergonomics and interior style,” says Nagy.

“Perhaps the first spot coming to mind for the use of Atmel’s XSense technology would be creating curved vehicle infotainment displays operating on MyFord Touch or the systems related to newly-announced Android-based consoles.”

As the journalist points out, XSense offers a stylish, viable alternative to mechanical switches, knobs and buttons found in almost every modern vehicle interior.

“On future vehicles, windows, door locks and climate controls could potentially be operated through touch with XSense. Who knows, maybe the steering wheel could also be replaced with a wheel-like touch sensor on a future car,” he adds.

“Atmel champions the longevity and weatherproof of the XSense touch sensor as being beneficial for applications within future vehicle interiors. The wide-scale possibilities of curved touch sensors will also serve as a blessing to the interior stylists for major auto companies as a full-range of shapes can be presented in a cutting-edge fashion.”

Atmel showcases AvantCar concept at CES 2014

Atmel is showcasing its AvantCar curved touch screen console concept at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. According to Atmel Marketing Director Stephan Thaler, the exhibit demonstrates the future of human machine interface (HMI) in upcoming vehicles.


“Today’s drivers are demanding richer user experiences in the automobile, similar to smart devices in the consumer market,” Thaler explained. 

“This includes capactive touchscreens, curved form factors, personalized color schemes and navigation menus via touch buttons and sliders. AvantCar addresses all these requirements with an advanced user interface in the center console to include [the latest] technologies.”

As Thaler notes, Atmel’s AvantCar concept demonstrates a fully functional center console highlighting two large curved touchscreen displays with no mechanical buttons. Instead, the touchscreens integrate capacitive touch buttons and sliders – allowing the user to navigate general applications typically found within an automotive center console including global navigation system (GPS), car thermostat, audio controls for a radio or media player, seat controls and more. 

AvantCar also allows drivers to personalize their vehicle environment via advanced touch capabilities and the automotive local interconnect network (LIN) connectivity system, enabling individuals to simply push a single button to alter the car’s ambient lighting.

The entire AvantCar center console is powered by Atmel technology, including the XSense touch sensor, maXTouch controller and QTouch, as well as automotive-qualified MCUs and LIN drivers for the ambient lighting control in the demonstrator.

Additional technical details are listed below:

  • Curved touchscreen display – XSense, Atmel’s highly flexible touch sensor, employing metal mesh technology, can be used on curved surfaces and edges, giving the console a sleeker, more elegant design. XSense also facilitates the replacement of mechanical switches or rotary knobs on the curved center console with moisture resistance and glove support for drivers in cold climates.
  • Large capacitive touch screens – AvantCar offers optimized touch performance using Atmel’s automotive-qualified maXTouch controllers that support touchscreens and touchpads up to 12 inches. maXTouch controllers provide faster response times, more accurate touches and lower power consumption than other solutions on the market today.
  • Proximity sensing and capacitive touch buttons and sliders – Atmel’s QTouch technology provides a more intuitive user interface, effectively replacing mechanical buttons or rotary knobs while adding capacitive proximity detection, all embedded in a single controller. Proximity sensing will detect the approaching hand and then control, for example, lights to turn on/off and the touchscreen backlight accordingly. This feature is also ideal for night time driving especially for GPS, radio control and thermostat checks.
  • Ambient lighting controls – Atmel’s LIN solutions, based on the company’s RF and automotive-qualified AVR MCUs, offer an ambient lighting control option for each driver to personalize car lighting.

“Atmel’s AvantCar is designed to show an avant-garde concept of what future car center consoles are likely to look like and how responsive they will be to a driver’s touch using advanced HMI interfaces,” added Thaler. “We are pioneering new ground with our technologies for the automotive segment and are thrilled to add more focus in this area for the upcoming years.”

The demo – designed in in conjunction with Germaneers GmbH – can be seen at Atmel’s Meeting Room #MP25958 located in the Lower Level of the South Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Please contact pr@atmel.com to schedule an appointment.

Designing next-gen LIN systems with Atmel (Part 2)

In the first part of this series, Bits & Pieces took a closer look at LIN, or Local Interconnect Network for vehicles. The LIN bus standard, found within the latest automotive network architectures, is a low-cost, single-wire serial communication system for distributed electronics in cars and trucks.

Essentially, LIN is highly suited for various body control applications, including power windows, mirrors, smart wipers, door locks, seat/roof/lighting control, lamps and indicators, dashboard instruments, steering wheels, climate and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, motors, switch panels and sensors.

As we discussed in part one of this series, Atmel offers a next-generation ATA6641/42 System Basis Chip (SBC) with an 8-channel high-voltage switch interface, a LIN2.1 and SAEJ2602-2-compliant LIN transceiver and lowdrop voltage regulator. In addition, the ATA6641/42 boasts an adjustable window watchdog, facilitating the development of inexpensive, low-end, but also powerful slave and master nodes for LIN bus systems meeting the latest OEM requirements.

Two versions are available: the ATA6641 with a 3.3V voltage regulator and the ATA6642 with a 5V voltage regulator. Most features can be configured via the SPI – a 16-bit SPI interface that simplifies and accelerates configuration of the slave/master LIN node for any given application. As you can see below, Figure 3 shows a typical application using the ATA6641/42.


“The ATA6641/41’s switch interface unit consists of 8 high-side current sources. They deliver a constant current level derived from a reference value measured at the IREF pin. This pin is voltage stabilized (VIREF = 1.23V typ.) so the reference current is directly dependent on an externally applied resistor connected between IREF pin and ground,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“The resulting current at the CSx pins is (1.23V/ RIref) x rICS. For example, with a 12K resistor between IREF and GND the value of the current at the CSx pins is 10mA (assumed IMUL = `0´ => rICS_H = 100). Fail-safe measures are able to detect both a missing as well as a short-circuited resistor. If a resistor is short-circuited, an internally generated reference current IIREFfs is used to maintain a basic level of functionality.”

Each switch input boasts a high-voltage comparator, a statechange-detection register for wake-up, interrupt request generation and a voltage divider with a low-voltage output that can be fed through to the measurement pin VDIV.

In terms of switch control, 8 high-voltage I/O ports form the heart of the ATA6641/42, making it exceptionally well suited for switch control applications with higher ESD requirements. These I/O ports allow highly flexible control of up to 8 single switches or a switch matrix or any combinations of both, as shown in figure 5, supplied by an internal current source of  5mA to 25mA. Three I/O ports can be configured either as current sources (e.g., for switches toward ground) or as current sinks (e.g., for switches toward battery); the other five pins have current sourcing capability only.


The device’s flexible switch monitoring is controlled by the application’s microcontroller (MCU). The implemented state-change detection circuitry allows configuration of each input so that it triggers an interrupt upon state change even during low-power mode. Therefore the respective current source needs to be configured so that it is controlled via the CSPWM pin. A rising edge on this pin enables the current source and delivers a stable switch read-back signal at the CS pin; a falling edge updates the switch state.

A change of state generates an interrupt request. If no wake-up should occur on a given switch—either because there is no application demand for this, or due to a failure, e.g., a hanging switch or a shorted connection line—wake-up can be prevented by disabling the current source in the SPI configuration register.


If switches are placed outside and connected via a wiring harness to the ECU, complete diagnosis of short-circuits or cable breaks can be performed. Ports that are not used for switch detection can be switched off. The device also features a high-precision current source for multi-resistor coding, while the scan current through the switches can be chosen to be sufficiently high so that the current will clean the switches.

Want to learn more about Atmel’s ATA6641/42? Be sure to check back for part three of this series, in which we’ll discuss voltage measurement, PWM control, h-bridge relays and LIN auto-addressing. Note: Part one of this series can be found here and part three here.