How Imagination is powering the automotive revolution

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Since the advent of the semiconductor, the industry has been all about making electronics faster and more powerful. While that process is ongoing, the focus these days is on making things smarter and more efficient, and nowhere is that truer than in automotive.

As the industry moves towards electric drivetrains, electronics are playing an ever-increasing role in the car. Just as the phone has evolved into a supercomputer in your pocket, your next car is going to be a supercomputer on wheels. At the start of this decade perhaps 30% of the cost of the car was electronics – by the end it will and by 2030, it will be half the car.

The requirement for safety in a car is addressed by ISO 26262, the automotive safety standard, and a new addition to this, known as Part 11, addresses IP suppliers. To that end, Imagination is introducing PowerVR Automotive, a new initiative that makes it easier for SoC manufacturers to achieve the various Automotive Safety Integrity Levels (ASIL) that are classified in ISO 26262.

Automotive trends

Enabling the vision

While achieving this might be daunting for some IP suppliers, meeting the demands of the automotive space is nothing new for Imagination. While many people are familiar with PowerVR from the smartphone market, some might not realise that PowerVR has a long history in automotive too. Over the past decade, we have supplied our GPU technology to companies such as DENSO, Renesas, Socionext, Texas Instruments (TI) and others. To date these companies have shipped tens-of-millions of devices, giving Imagination a market share by volume of over 50% for automotive application processors.

Our vision is to enable this next-generation of car: think multiple, high-resolution displays sporting graphically rich interfaces, providing information at a glance for vital systems such as the cluster, navigation and infotainment. Our GPU and neural network accelerators will also be under the hood, providing the compute to drive the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and eventually to full autonomy.

Each of these will require ever greater levels of performance. While a car on the road today might use a 1K display for the cluster, this will move to 4K and beyond in the next few years. Compute on GPU and dedicated neural network accelerators will move from 10 GFLOPS and 10 TOPS now to over 100 and 500 respectively.

Introducing PowerVR Automotive

What’s important to understand is that PowerVR Automotive is not one thing: it’s a collection of parts that come together to create a complete product package. It consists of five essential elements – hardware IP, software, tools, documentation and long-term support. Each of these is critical to enable our customers can create SoC that more easily meet the entire automotive experience, including ISO 26262, the standard for functional safety.

Automotive pack
PowerVR Automotive is made up of several elements, from hardware, software to documentation

PowerVR Series8XT-A

As part of the launch of PowerVR Automotive, we are introducing the PowerVR Series8XT-A. While our IP has appeared in automotive SoC for a decade, this is a GPU family specifically with automotive features in silicon.

The first of these enhancements is support for error correcting code (ECC) and error detecting code (EDC) memory, which is vital in an environment such as a car which must operate reliably and safely in a variety of thermal conditions.

The IP also supports memory built-in self-test (MBIST) and logic built-in self-test (LBIST), again necessary to perform in-situ checking that the GPU is working correctly to ensure it meets ASIL ratings.

The Series8XT-A is based on the Furian architecture, which means it delivers the cutting-edge performance ensuring a premium experience while being as power efficient as possible.

Power efficiency is important in the car as car manufacturers have enough of a challenge getting the car to operate in extreme conditions without having to worry about needing specialist cooling for the electronics. ‘Low power-first’ has been part of PowerVR’s heritage since its beginning and is inherent in its patented TBDR-architecture.

Other key features for automotive are the unique hardware virtualization that enables multiple OSs to be run at the same time, on a single GPU, without any loss of performance, thanks to fast-context switching.

However, should a customer prefer to run with the reassurance of a dual-GPU setup, this is supported by the Automotive package.

reliability and recovery

While the PowerVR Series8XT-A offers reliability and recovery features that are specific for automotive the Series9XE and Series9XM are also highly-suited for automotive thanks to their area-efficient designs built following a QM process that enables them to be integrated into an ASIL compliant SoC.

Conclusion

PowerVR Automotive then is a complete product package that combines robust, performant hardware, with the software, tools and documentation that SoC designers need to create functionally safe automotive SoCs. Through it, Imagination will enable the growth and acceleration of the automotive semiconductor industry for both new and existing players in the market.

What’s more, when you work with Imagination you won’t just take our IP, but you’ll work closely with us to build the best product possible. You can take full advantage of our deep experience of the automotive market to answer questions you might have, such as what level of safety you require for your system, or if you should be doing compute on a GPU or a neural network accelerator.

With PowerVR Automotive you’ll have a package from a trusted partner with many years’ experience of the market. It will set you on the right road to creating the automotive SoCs that the industry needs to ensure that the vision we all want, of smart, safe and efficient vehicles comes true.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even

With a background in technology journalism stretching back to the late 90s, Benny Har-Even has written for many of the top UK technology publications, across both consumer and B2B and has appeared as an expert on BBC World Business News and BBC Radio Five Live. He is now Content Manager at Imagination Technologies.

2 thoughts on “How Imagination is powering the automotive revolution”

  1. Thanks Luca for your comment. Pleased to hear that the tablet is working out for you and that the PowerVR- based GPU is exceeding expectations. It’s exciting what’s planned for the future for smartphones and automotive.

  2. Hi there,
    Perhaps my comment is bit out of this specific content, but I’d like to share my experience with one of your products.
    I just recently bought a tablet and this tablet is from one of the biggest company in the world. I am not going to mention the name of the company also because it’s difficult to comment from your side it and it’s not fair to ask you that.
    Anyway I am very surprised and happy how fast this tablet is and specifically the GPU. That GPU can really handle very detailed games at high resolutions. Graphic is really close to current game consoles.
    Now I know that GPU has something from Imagination and I won’t ask you to comment about it, but I suppose you have to know that you guys still design fastest GPU in the market. And that GPU is an example of it, even though designed by third parties.
    Well done and I hope to still see other excellent graphics solutions from Imagination in the future.

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