New ARM Processor Puts Autonomous Car Safety at the Forefront: Page 2 of 2

With its Cortex-A76AE autonomous-class processor, ARM is looking to take the wheel on autonomous vehicle safety.

“There's increased software complexity and latency because every time you have to change the function, not only do you have to write the code for the main processor you are executing—you also have to update the checker software. This leads to a complex search fixation and supply chain and, of course, more board space and higher power,” Mandyam said. “With Arm's approach, it's a single SoC so you could then have a combination of a cluster of cores that are split or across clusters of cores that are locked. The locked cores execute the same instructions and automatically compare to each other to determine if an error has occurred. Now, all of that happens on-chip, cycle by cycle, transparent to software. And so this is really driving a lot of flexibility for the OEM. It enables a faster detection of errors, it simplifies their software, it simplifies their certification process and their supply chain, and of course reduces power.”

The Cortex A76AE integrates Split-Lock technology to allow engineers flexibility in how the processor handles tasks within the autonomous system. (Image source: Arm) 

Can the Processors All Just Get Along?

Design News asked Mandyam how Arm envisions the A76AE existing in a market where GPUs and even FPGAs are also jockeying for position as the brains inside of autonomous vehicles. She said the company looks at its latest processor not as a competitor to solutions like GPUs, but as something that can co-exist with them. In support of this, she noted that the A76AE can be scaled up to 64 cores and is multi-chip capable.

“Our view is that they're going to coexist,” she said. “A lot of the autonomous driving platforms will take advantage of compute when they need it and GPU when they need it. So from our perspective, this is a heterogeneous processing challenge. We believe that's the benefit of the Arm compute complex—that you can plug in different capabilities.”

Arm expects its OEM partners to begin deploying the Cortex-A76AE in vehicles beginning in 2020, with a target at lower levels of autonomy that will eventually scale up to Level 5. “[OEMs are] going to see a lot of volume come from Level 3 and below even over the next eight to ten years. And they will evolve those solutions to go into Level 5,” Mandyam said. “People are designing solutions based on Arm platforms today for that space. But what we see is a lot of software and prototyping kind of exploration for Level 4 and Level 5. The true production is going to be happening at Level 3 and below for the next five to seven years.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

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