Arm Holdings, the England-based chip technology firm owned by SoftBank Group Corp., is collaborating with carmakers General Motors and Toyota to establish common computing systems for self-driving cars. The consortium hopes to accelerate the development of the technology.
Arm Holdings supplies the technology required for the processors found in modern smartphones but does not manufacture chips itself. The firm has had automotive clientele since the late 1990s, when carmakers started using computer chips in cars for functions like engine control and diagnostics.
General Motors has been developing its own "Cruise" autonomous technology for quite a few now.
"I just had the opportunity to ride in four different types of autonomous vehicles. They were great prototype platforms for proving the software, but when I asked to look at the electronics powering these vehicles, it literally was servers in trunks," says Chet Babla, Arm's vice president of automotive. "We've got a long way to go."
Earlier this week, Arm announced it was helping to create Autonomous Vehicle Computing Consortium, or AVCC, with General Motors and Toyota. Bosch, Denso Corp, and Continental AG are also part of the Consortium. Assisting the group are semiconductor companies Nvidia and NXP Semiconductors, both of which embed Arm’s technology into their chips.
Analysts expect the number of chips in newer cars to expand, looking at the increasing partnerships of automakers and technology firms working on autonomous vehicles. The current vehicles are limited in potential by using large, power-intensive chips found in data centres. Unanimously, chip manufacturers and carmakers agree that the power diet and size of the core gear must be shrunk drastically to fit into cars for the public
Chet Babla, Arm’s vice president of automotive, told Reuters in an interview, “”I just came back from trips in the U.S. and China and had the opportunity to ride in four different types of autonomous vehicles. They were great prototype platforms for proving the software, but when I asked to look at the electronics powering these vehicles, it literally was servers in trunks. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Toyota also has progressed on its autonomous ride-sharing plus commercial autonomous vehicles. A new autonomous vehicle standard would create a bigger ecosystem composing of more contenders.
The AVCC will be an independent entity funded by membership fees from the companies that join. Arm officials said its progress and products will be open to non-members. The first task for AVCC is to establish a benchmark computing architecture. Creating such a framework will make it easier for car firms to write software that will work on chips from different vendors. The model is the same as that of Microsoft Corp Widows-based software works on processors from both Intel Corp or AMD Inc.
Massimo Osella, chairman of the board of AVCC, said, “The massive amount of technological innovation required to power fully self-driving vehicles at scale requires collaboration at an industry level.” Osella is a lab group manager for research and development at GM.
Having a unified foundation upon which to build independently designed autonomous cars is sure to benefit the industry. For one, it will speed development of required technology. Uncertainty over the next gold standard of technology will be eliminated, allowing companies to experiment with more freedom. Such a scenario would push the industry into a truly advanced, autonomous age.