'High Automation' Autonomous Cars on Roads by 2020

  • At the NXP FTF in Austin, TX this week, NXP showed off its BlueBox autonomous vehicle technology on a 3D-printed car built by Local Motors.
    (Source: Design News)
  • The BlueBox platform contains the processing capabilities to handle autonomous driving sensors, including radar, lidar, ultrasound, and cameras, as well as conventional motion and wheel speed sensors. It also incorporates vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to
  • The auto industry recognizes five levels of vehicle autonomy. NXP’s BlueBox will deliver Level 4 autonomy, in which the car operates itself but requires a front-seat driver. Level 5 -- in which the driver can sit in a back seat -- is still believed to be
  • BlueBox enables autonomous vehicles to take in data from multiple vision systems and then control the car’s engine, transmission, brakes, steering, airbags, and suspension.
    (Source: NXP)
  • In contrast to the “supercomputer-on-wheels” approach used in the famous DARPA Grand Challenges of a decade ago, BlueBox’s controlling electronics are all contained in a pizza-box-sized container.
    (Source: Design News)
  • BlueBox contains two main engines -- an embedded compute processor containing eight 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 cores running at 2 GHz each, and a vision processor using four ARM Cortex-A53 cores running at 1 GHz.
    (Source: Design News)
  • Level 4 autonomous vehicles will use vision, radar, and lidar to sense vehicles all around them, even in heavy traffic.
    (Source: NXP Semiconductors)
  • NXP’s S32 vision processor incorporates four ARM Cortex-A53 cores running at 1 GHz.
    (Source: Design News)
  • NXP introduced BlueBox technology to approximately 2,000 engineers at its NXP FTF event in Austin, Texas this week.
    (Source: Design News)
  • A display screen above NXP’s demo car showed how the sensor data appears to the vehicle. Above left is camera data; above right is radar; and the box on the bottom is lidar.
    (Source: Design News)
  • Radar sensors are placed above the front “bumper” of the demo vehicle.
    (Source: Design News)
  • A forward-looking camera is located on the front windshield of the demo vehicle.
    (Source: Design News)
  • A lidar sensor is mounted on top of the vehicle’s roll bar.
    (Source: Design News)


Self-driving automotive technology took a big step forward this week, as NXP Semiconductors rolled out a pizza-box-sized module that could bring production-level, "high automation" to the roads by 2020.

Known as BlueBox, the new module contains the electronics for radar-, lidar-, and vision-based processing, as well as control of the autonomous steering, brakes, engine, and gearbox. The unit promises to take vehicles to Level 4 autonomy, in which the car operates itself but requires a driver to be present in the front seat. NXP said that four of the world's top five automakers are already developing vehicles on BlueBox.

Click on the image below to check out NXP's Bluebox tech:

"This is an architecture for production and mass deployment," Allan McAuslin, product line manager for vision and automated drive at NXP, told Design News .

The introduction is important because it brings the automotive world closer to the ultimate goal of full autonomy. The auto industry currently recognizes five levels of automated driving:

  • Level 1 , which includes adaptive cruise control, lanekeeping, and automatic braking, is already on the roads in many newer vehicles.
  • Level 2 , or partial automation, includes emergency braking with steering.
  • Level 3 , known as conditional automation, adds chauffeuring capability for highway driving, but not for heavy traffic.
  • Level 4, calls for a driver to be present in the front seat, but enables the vehicle to drive itself.
  • Level 5 , which allows the "driver" to sit in rear seat, is the only higher level of automation.

NXP said that automakers currently deploying BlueBox are targeting Level 4, but not Level 5.

The announcement is also important for another reason -- it suggests that autonomy is moving beyond the realm of demonstration vehicles and into production in the near future. Design cycles for many 2020 models have already begun, NXP noted. "The automakers are not just talking about 2020 vehicles, they're actually designing them at this point," McAuslin said.

The BlueBox platform contains the processing capabilities to handle autonomous driving sensors, including radar, lidar, ultrasound, and cameras, as well as conventional motion and wheel speed sensors. It also incorporates vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, which would enable an autonomous car to "talk" with other vehicles, stop signs, and traffic lights.

BlueBox's computing platform contrasts sharply with predecessors that received notoriety during DARPA's famous Grand Challenge and Urban Challenge autonomous vehicles races between 2005 and 2007. Back then, self-driving vehicles were referred to as "supercomputers on wheels" because their computing hardware could fill a trunk or the entire back end of an SUV. BlueBox, in contrast, packs its computing prowess into metal box measuring about 14 inch x 18 inch x 2 inch. It contains two main

May 19, 2016

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