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The automotive industry is experiencing a remarkable transformation driven by groundbreaking innovations such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous driving, electric, and connected cars. These cutting-edge innovations demand state-of-the-art system-on-chip (SoC) architectures that can provide unprecedented high performance, safety, low power, security, and connectivity to support these new technologies.
This post introduces a series of articles describing the five critical features of automotive SoC architectures that are essential for developing the next generation of passenger vehicles. See below:
In a real-time system, embedded processors must respond within a deadline to ensure the safe and deterministic operation of time-critical applications. This is very important for safety-critical tasks such as airbag activation and antilock braking systems, where any delay in response can lead to a potential accident. Furthermore, as cars become more sophisticated and autonomous, they require even more powerful processors and graphics capabilities to perform computationally intensive tasks such as video processing, radar sensing, and machine learning. Therefore, automotive SoCs have to provide not only timing predictability but also high-performance computing.
Safety is a top priority in the automotive industry because it directly affects the lives and well-being of drivers, passengers, and other road users. Vehicle processing units must meet safety standards, such as ISO 26262, which includes hazard analysis, risk assessment, and safety validation. Even under challenging environmental conditions, vehicle architectures must behave correctly to ensure that passengers and drivers are protected from harm. For this reason, electronic control units are equipped with advanced safety mechanisms, including hardware-based fault tolerance, error correction codes, and redundant circuitry, to ensure safe and reliable system operation.
High-end automotive SoCs have been developed in 7nm, and some companies are already preparing their next-generation advanced-node designs in 5nm. Foundries claim that 5nm enables at least 20% faster speed or 40% lower power consumption and therefore, it is ideal for novel embedded processors. However, SoCs remain the most powerful electrical component controlling all aspects of a vehicle. Architectures for automobiles must provide high-performance computing capabilities with minimal power consumption. This is critical to extend the battery life of electric and hybrid vehicles, maximize their range, and reduce the need for frequent recharging. To achieve low power consumption, SoC designers can use techniques such as dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS), power gating, and clock gating. Yet, these techniques must be carefully optimized for performance requirements to ensure that the system remains responsive and reliable.
Vehicles are becoming increasingly connected and automated, making them more vulnerable to cyberattacks that can lead to data theft, system malfunctions, and even physical harm to drivers and passengers. Security must be considered when designing SoCs for vehicles. Features such as secure boot, secure firmware updates, hardware encryption, and authentication must be implemented. Also, security certification standards such as ISO/SAE 21434 must be considered to ensure that automotive systems are developed and tested to meet robust security requirements.
In addition to standard Ethernet and bus technologies, modern vehicles must support various wireless technologies such as 5G, Bluetooth, and near-field communication to provide a seamless user experience and support emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) operations. Connectivity enables greater vehicle autonomy and allows automakers to perform over-the-air updates to remotely fix software bugs or vulnerabilities, increase safety, improve efficiency, and offer new services to customers without having to visit a service center.
To support the latest technological advancements in the car industry, modern automotive SoCs must provide high performance for real-time applications, safety, low power consumption, security, and connectivity. Throughout the upcoming chapters of this series, we will explore each of these five essential features and explore the latest developments, challenges, and solutions. We will also explain how Cadence technologies can be used to develop SoC architectures for the next generation of passenger cars.