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Feb. 8, 2023: Embedded Computing Design

Top Technology Trends Accelerating the Future of Vehicle Safety, Infotainment, and Communication

How RISC-V is Helping to Drive Next-Gen Automotive Experiences

The automotive industry’s transformation in the next decade will be much bigger than the changes we’ve seen over the last 50 years, moving from vehicles with hundreds of small, single-function microcontrollers (MCUs) in some models, to vehicles with sophisticated computing engines and high-speed communications.

This shift towards smarter, safer, more sustainable, and more capable automobiles comes with a number of technical challenges. That’s because today’s “software defined” automobile has accelerated the demands on computing requirements, the pace of innovation, and the flexibility required within the automotive supply ecosystem.  Automotive designers today need to integrate more computing capabilities for fast, reliable processing within smaller footprints and constrained thermal envelopes to support a growing number of capabilities and services.

This rapid evolution is catapulting RISC-V’s adoption in the automotive market, due to its flexible, modern architecture, fast-growing ecosystem, and proven power and performance perks. With RISC-V, automotive designers can create computing platforms that meet performance/cost/power requirements and have a high level of code portability, all while speeding their time-to-market. 

As the automotive industry shifts into high gear to adopt RISC-V solutions, let’s take a peek at some of the top technology trends driving the automotive industry and how RISC-V CPUs and open-source software are fueling innovation in this space.

  • Vehicle Safety: As the automotive industry faces tighter safety standards, especially with advancements in autonomous vehicles, CPUs based on RISC-V can play a key role in creating highly efficient high-performance systems. Highly scalable CPUs – such as those that offer coherent multi-cluster/multi-core/multi-threaded capabilities – can enable today’s increasingly heterogeneous computing architectures. Of course in automotive, it’s also critical that these CPUs are designed with safety features for ISO 26262, ASIL-B(D), and ASIL-D systems.

We are seeing the integration of such safety-critical systems across the automotive landscape, with the proliferation of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS). According to a 2021 research report from Canalys, approximately 33 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States, Europe, Japan, and China had ADAS features. The firm predicts that 50% of all automobiles on the road by 2030 will be ADAS-enabled. Meanwhile, the ADAS market is expected to increase from USD $23.4 billion in 2021 to USD $75.2 billion by 2030.

One of the leaders in this area is Mobileye, which has shipped over 100 million Systems on Chips (SoCs) for ADAS and other automotive vision systems. Mobileye’s vision processors, together with its broad range of algorithms, target vehicle active safety applications such as lane departure warning, vehicle and pedestrian detection, intelligent headlight control, and traffic sign recognition. According to Mobileye’s research, the wide adoption of ADAS can ultimately achieve a ‘zero accident’ reality. Mobileye recently announced its adoption of MIPS’ new RISC-V eVocore P8700 multiprocessor to power its newest EyeQ SoCs. Each previous generation of Mobileye EyeQ SoCs uses MIPS CPUs, and together the companies are moving to future designs based on RISC-V.

  • Infotainment: The in-vehicle infotainment experience is rapidly evolving, with more connectivity, 5G, over-the-air updates, sophisticated displays, personalized experiences, and increased functionality and services such as gaming and on-demand entertainment. One company providing enabling technologies for infotainment is Microchip, a provider of smart, connected, and secure embedded control solutions. Microchip’s PIC32 MCU, for example, takes advantage of MIPS virtualization technology, which enables the use of a single MCU to replace multiple controllers, with MIPS virtualization technology used to isolate individual system functionality for increased security and efficiency. MIPS is now enabling powerful architectural features such as hardware virtualization in its RISC-V IP cores.

As cars become more sophisticated, the RISC-V architecture can help automakers meet the demands of modern-day automotive electronics and infotainment. At the RISC-V Summit 2022, Lars Bergstrom, Google’s Director of Engineering, announced Google's commitment to support RISC-V as a first level citizen. The combination of Android and RISC-V will help to grow the RISC-V ecosystem and the Android ecosystem, and will enable powerful new solutions for automotive infotainment.

The in-vehicle infotainment market is projected to grow from USD $20.8 billion in 2021 to USD $38.4 billion by 2027. I’m excited to see continued innovation in this space, thanks to RISC-V.

  • Communications: As the trend toward more high-speed communications capabilities for automobiles continues to grow, car manufacturers will need to design more efficient in-car systems. MIPS CPUs are used in several in-car communication solutions today, including Valens’ in-car connectivity systems. In these systems, MIPS’ multithreading capability provide high levels of efficiency for streamlined communications.

RISC-V enables code portability and an open platform that enables faster time to market for providers of networking SoCs. Our RISC-V solutions with multi-threaded, multi-core, multi-cluster scalability, enable us to address the growing need for faster communication speeds inside the car. MIPS’ multi-threading capability has the added benefit of providing ultra-low latency response time for high priority tasks – a critical feature for next-generation in-car communications.

I believe the next decade will see RISC-V become an essential component of assisted and autonomous driving technologies. MIPS RISC-V CPUs like the P8700 enable the scalability, performance, and quality needed for tomorrow’s software defined vehicle, helping companies build highly efficient, high-performance SoCs with a robust safety model – all within the broadly supported RISC-V ecosystem. These technologies will continue to evolve as the industry marches towards higher levels of autonomy. I’m excited to see what happens next as the mobility revolution accelerates.

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