NXP Semiconductors on Monday introduced its S32x processing platform, which it claims has 10 times the performance of current chipsets and can be used to control automotive functions from infotainment, to powertrain, to sensor fusion.
And it can help automakers future-proof their vehicles, because the platform allows carmakers to perform over-the-air updates and can be upgraded as new capabilities such as cloud connectivity and self-driving roll out.
"What we're talking about is the entire vehicle, not one application, but all these applications, across multiple levels of vehicles today and the vehicles of tomorrow," Matt Johnson, NXP's general manager of product lines and software for automotive microcontrollers and processors, said in a meeting with reporters.
While competitors such as Nvidia and Intel are developing high-performance processors for specific functions, like Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving, the NXP platform can power nearly every aspect of a car. Johnson said automakers can use the platform for a specific function, or scale it up within the vehicle, increasing efficiency with each NXP unit added.
The platform helps centralize the computing architecture in the car, by powering multiple functions at once, Johnson said. Such consolidation makes it easier to update the vehicle's software over-the-air, limiting the number of access points needed.
With the ability to implement OTA updates, automakers can add new technology into cars on the road rather than wait for the next product cycle.
Tesla Inc. has already begun using this method for everything from minor software updates to increasing driver assistance capabilities.
"We've built something that's scalable, flexible and as future-proof as possible, because our market used to be one of optimization, and now it's one of flexibility and change," Johnson said. "It's important our customers don't get stuck on a dead branch."
Ray Cornyn, general manager of vehicle dynamics and safety at NXP, said the platform consumes about the same amount of power as chipsets currently in use by divvying up wattage for targeted functions. As cars become electrified and loaded with new technology, computing power will need to remain low to avoid power constraints.
"We're being very careful about what parts of the chip are actually active at any time," Cornyn said. "We started this by saying, we only have a couple watts, what can we do inside that budget?"
He added that NXP has left extra memory and computing space on chips in the platform, to ensure it can handle new capabilities as they are developed.
The company said that so far, eight of the top 15 automakers are planning to incorporate the platform in future vehicles, with the first becoming available in the 2020 model year.