ARM Continues Push Into Automotive Tech Arena

The chip company is unveiling the latest of its safety support functions for its SoC designs, aimed at the Cortex-A chip family.

auto tech

The discussion around automotive safety is shifting away from physical features—such as crumple zones—to computer systems that can do things like apply the brakes before a collision occurs, according to Richard York, vice president of embedded marketing at chip designer ARM.

In line with this shift, ARM announced it is licensing functional safety support across several processor families—Cortex-A, Cortex-R and Cortex-M. This will help chip and system makers meet the automotive industry’s growing demand for more compute capabilities, particularly in the area of safety, ARM said.

Currently, vendors must build safety cases on a chip-by-chip basis, which ARM noted it is a costly endeavor. By offering an application processor functional safety package that can be licensed by its chip-making partners, ARM aims to make it more cost effective and easier for chip makers to put safety features and support into their offerings. It will enable automotive dealers to put more computing capabilities into their cars at a competitive price.

"There is a need for substantially more processor power with safety features," York told eWEEK. Car dealers "can use as much processing power as we can get them."

Cars today are increasingly equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that offer a growing range of capabilities, from sensing an oncoming collision and applying the brakes to sending out a warning when the car begins to drift into an adjoining lane.

ARM said today’s high-end cars have more than 100 processors on board that run tens of millions lines of code. As the industry continues to push toward self-driving cars, demand for compute power will increase. Processor performance will have to increase 20 times by 2018, 40 to 50 times by 2020 and 100 times by 2024, the company said.

ARM's Cortex-A safety documents package will initially be aimed at Cortex-A57, Cortex-A72 and Cortex-A53 processor licensees, and will support future Cortex-A systems-on-a-chip (SoCs). It will help SoC designs meet such functional safety standards as ISO 26262 and IEC 61508, according to ARM. It also will come with a safety manual, failure modes report and development interface report.

The tech industry is stepping up its development of products for the auto industry as it moves toward autonomous cars, and ADAS features are one of the fastest- growing segments of the automotive electronics area, according to Strategy Analytics, which predicts 18 percent annual unit growth.

At the recent Graphics Technology Conference 2015 hosted by chip maker and ARM partner Nvidia, automotive technology took a central role. Nvidia introduced the Tegra X1 mobile chip, which is aimed at a broad range of market segments, including the auto industry. Nvidia also rolled out its Drive PX technology, powered by two Tegra X1 chips and created to crunch a huge amount of data; the Drive CX platform for in-cabin infotainment systems, and Drive Studio software, which developers can use to build 3D cockpits and integrate such features as navigation and infotainment.

ARM's new safety package comes three months after the company unveiled a safety document set for the Cortex-R5 processor, the first of its SoC designs to come with such a document set.