The automotive industry is currently undergoing a significant transformation, driven by revolutionary innovations such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous driving, electric cars, and connected vehicles. These cutting-edge innovations require 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.
As automakers race to create the next generation of passenger vehicles, automotive SoC architectures have emerged as a critical component in the design process. These SoCs are responsible for controlling all aspects of a vehicle, including engine management, ADAS, entertainment, and navigation systems.
In this series of articles, we will delve into the five critical features of automotive SoC architectures that are essential for developing the next generation of passenger vehicles. These features include real-time and high-performance computing, safety, low power consumption, security, and connectivity.
Firstly, real-time and high-performance computing is crucial in automotive SoC architectures. 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 also 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.
Thirdly, low power consumption is essential in modern automotive SoC architectures. 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, making it 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.
Security is another crucial aspect of automotive SoC architectures. As vehicles become increasingly connected and automated, they are 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.