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As ADAS And Autonomous Driving Require More Processing Power, Functional Safety Will Follow

by Kevin Mak | Apr 24, 2015

ARM has, yesterday, announced the extension of functional safety support for the Cortex-M and Cortex-A series processing cores, in its press release, ARM Expects Vehicle Compute Performance to Increase 100x in Next Decade.  

The significance of this recent announcement is that functional safety support is now available for high-speed processing cores designed for application processing.  

  • This high-speed application processing will be used for new ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) and autonomous driving applications, which require processing high levels of data from higher levels of “sensor fusion” (where more accurate decision-making can be made from data gathering from more sensors), as reported by the Strategy Analytics viewpoint, Autonomous Vehicles: Evolutionary Deployment - Revolutionary Outcome?  
  • Another area, touched on by ARM, is the simultaneous processing of data from a single sensor, such as image data from a single front windshield camera, to generate multiple applications, such as lane departure warning, light sources from other vehicles (for high beam assist), as well as pedestrian and traffic sign recognition for collision avoidance and speed alerts respectively.  

While the Safety Package makes its way into the Cortex-A53, -A57 and -A72 64-bit multi-core processing devices, it may surprise readers that they do not have as a high a level of functional safety support as the Cortex-R5 processor that was announced earlier.  

  • This is because the Cortex-R5 is targeted for critical decision-making functions in the centralized control unit, such as the Audi zFAS, whereas the Cortex-A series is mainly used for data processing between the sensors and the control units.  
  • This later arrival of functional safety in the Cortex-A products follows ARM’s “chain” in functional safety development.
  • Cortex-A53 and -A57 are already serving the automotive market.  Freescale and Texas Instruments have announced their intention to use the new Cortex-A72 in their future SoC (System-on-Chip) designs.

Another significance of the announcement is that, without functional safety support, competing processing core vendors may find it difficult to offer alternatives to ARM in this rapidly growing market area in automotive.  

  • Chris Webber, Vice-President of the Automotive practice at Strategy Analytics, said, “With an 18 percent unit CAAGR (Cumulative Average Annual Growth Rate), ADAS features are exhibiting the highest growth within the automotive electronics domain as vehicle makers look to differentiate on enhanced product safety.”  Strategy Analytics will soon publish its update to the Automotive Semiconductor Demand Forecast on its website.
  • In the ADAS market, the only known processing core vendor other than ARM are Imagination Technologies, which supplies its MIPS 32-bit multi-core processors to Mobileye for front windshield camera applications.
  • It is not known if Intel’s Atom processing cores have been supplied beyond infotainment applications in automotive.  
  • As the demand for processing performance increases in ADAS and autonomous driving, so the requirement for functional safety will be greater.  

Strategy Analytics will soon publish a further report on PSoC (Programmable System-on-Chip) devices that could provide a more flexible alternative to the conventional microcontroller-based SoC.   These PSoC devices combine the flexibility of an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) and the multi-core processing power of an SoC.

  • Current PSoC devices run on ARM cores and, if the supply of processing cores continues, then future PSoC devices could be supported by the ARM Safety Package.
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