Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Silicon wars heat up in 2018 – the autonomous vehicle opportunity

Preamble: autonomous vehicles represent an enormous opportunity for the tech industry, including for mobile operators and network equipment suppliers. The first and second parts of this article looked at recent developments at Intel and at Qualcomm, both of which are moving rapidly to consolidate an early lead into a full-fledged platform for autonomous vehicles. This part of the article looks at two other players with newly-announced platforms: NVIDIA and Molex.

NVIDIA building the world's first autonomous machine processor

NVIDIA is pursuing a “holistic” strategy for the autonomous vehicle challenge, choosing to develop silicon, the software stack, the tools, and the development necessary to achieve driverless safety at the ISO 26262 certification level.

At this year’s CES 2018, the company unveiled its NVIDIA AI autonomous vehicle platform for automakers. At the heart of the system is a new NVIDIA Xavier autonomous-machine processor, which the company describes as the most complex system on a chip ever created. The chip, which is expected to begin sampling this quarter, is built around a custom 8-core CPU, a new 512-core Volta GPU, a new deep learning accelerator, new computer vision accelerators and new 8K HDR video processors. The SoC has over 9 billion transistors. Everything on-chip is designed for redundacy and diversity. NVIDIA said it invested $2 billion over four years to develop the chip. Over 2,000 engineers worked on its development.

NVIDIA is not just pitching silicon, but instead talking about process, technologies, and simulation systems, as described below:

Process: Sets out the steps for establishing a pervasive safety methodology for the design, management, and documentation of the self-driving system.

Processor Design and Hardware Functionality: Incorporates a diversity of processors to achieve

fail operation capabilities. These include NVIDIA-designed IP related to NVIDIA Xavier covering CPU and GPU processors, deep learning accelerator, image processing ISP, computer vision PVA, and video processors – all at the highest quality and safety standards. Included are lockstep processing and error-correcting code on memory and buses, with built-in testing capabilities. The ASIL-C NVIDIA DRIVE Xavier processor and ASIL-D rated safety microcontroller with appropriate safety logic can achieve the highest system ASIL-D rating.

Software: including third-party software such as BlackBerry QNX’s 64-bit real-time operating system, which is ASIL-D safety certified, along with TTTech’s MotionWise safety application framework, which encapsulates each application and isolates them from each other, while providing real-time computing capability. NVIDIA DRIVE OS offers full support of Adaptive AUTOSAR, the open-standard automotive system architecture and application framework. The NVIDIA toolchain, including the CUDA compiler and TensorRT, uses ISO 26262 Tool Classification Levels.

Algorithms: The NVIDIA DRIVE AV autonomous vehicle software stack performs functions like ego-motion, perception, localization, and path planning. To realize fail operation capability, each functionality includes a redundancy and diversity strategy. For example, perception redundancy is achieved by fusing lidar, camera and radar. Deep learning and computer vision algorithms running on CPU, CUDA GPU, DLA and PVA enhance redundancy and diversity. The NVIDIA DRIVE AV stack is a full backup system to the self-driving stack developed by the automaker, enabling Level 5 autonomous vehicles to achieve the highest level of functional safety.

Virtual Reality Simulation: NVIDIA has created a virtual reality simulator, called NVIDIA AutoSIM, to test the DRIVE platform and simulate against rare conditions. Running on NVIDIA DGX supercomputers, NVIDIA AutoSIM is repeatable for regression testing and will eventually simulate billions of miles.

Based on this platform, NVIDIA published a flurry of press announcements touting its momentum:

Mercedes-Benz unveiled a new in-car infotainment system that uses AI powered by NVIDIA to transform how drivers and passengers interact with their vehicles. The 3D touch-screen displays can be controlled with a new voice-activated assistant that can be summoned with the phrase “Hey, Mercedes.”

Volkswagen is adopting the NVIDIA DRIVE IX platform.

Uber has selected NVIDIA technology for the AI computing system in its future fleet of self-driving cars and freight trucks.
Baidu and ZF, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, to create a production-ready AI autonomous vehicle platform based on NVIDIA’s DRIVE Xavier, ZF’s new ProAI car computer and Baidu’s Apollo Pilot.

Molex is building the in-vehicle network

Molex, which is well-known in the communications field for its electrical and fibre optic interconnection systems, is also jumping into to the autonomous vehicle field.  This week, the Lisle, Illinois-based company is highlighting its new, 10G Automotive Ethernet Network for connected and autonomous vehicles at CES 2018.

The Molex 10 Gbps Automotive Ethernet Network connects Electronic Control Units (ECUs) throughout a vehicle. It offers secure over-the-air software and firmware updates and diagnostics over IP (Dip) to help avoid the need for vehicle recalls and enabling in-vehicle security and diagnostics over IP.  Molex said its platform is compatible with existing network components, and that it provides flexibility for OEMs to accommodate different vehicle profiles.

The Molex 10 Gbps Automotive Ethernet Network incorporates an Aquantia chip optimized for Multi-Gig Ethernet to support data transfers between Electronic Control Units (ECU). Molex is also working with Silicon Valley-based Excelfore, which provides innovative middleware solutions for in-vehicle and vehicle-to-cloud smart mobility networks. This enables over-the-air (OTA) diagnostics, firmware and software updates to different automotive devices, from different vendors, running different operating systems, across multiple networks.

To connect the network to the car’s entertainment system, Molex has formed a partnership with AllGo Systems. AllGo's OTG and Media Solutions support iPhones and Android phones, as well as other smart devices within the car. The idea here is clearly wired and wireless infotainment in automotive cockpit systems. High-resolution navigation data could also be streamed over the in-car network from a head unit running Android to a digital instrument cluster running QNX. The companies envision multiple 4K high-resolution content streams from a network storage device to the head unit and played back on secondary displays.

Molex is also working with Microchip Technology Inc.  on USB Media Modules and USB power delivery solutions for these automotive infotainment systems. The work focuses on the increasing number of USB ports in vehicles, and how USB can deliver more power and bring driver assistance applications to the head unit display.

Finally, let us not forget security. Molex is working with BlackBerry to protect its 10 Gbps Ethernet Automotive Networking platform. This is being developed using the BlackBerry QNX Neutrino SDP 7.0 RTOS, which provides high performance and enhanced kernel-level security based on its microkernel architecture, file encryption, adaptive time partitioning, a high-availability framework, anomaly detection, and multi-level policy-based access control. Communication between modules and other vehicle ECUs and peripheral devices connected to the network will use the BlackBerry Certicom's Managed PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) Service to securely provision and authenticate. In-vehicle connections can be made via Ethernet IP-based devices or LIN, CAN, USB, and other supported legacy communication protocols. As part of the PKI, BlackBerry Certicom’s is providing an efficient and powerful Elliptic-Curve Cryptography (ECC) solution that can also be extended to communications between the vehicle systems and the cloud.

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