Editor's Note: This article is sponsored content from Arm and was not reported or published by the Tom's Hardware staff.
The buzz around autonomous, self-driving cars has been building, with many high-profile tech companies releasing prototypes and road testing vehicles. However, one key element preventing autonomous vehicles from making it to mass market is safety. No company has yet been able to crack the fundamental challenge of providing a consistently safe ride in a fully autonomous vehicle.
Despite the fact that more than 90% of vehicle accidents are caused by human error, the perception that self-driving vehicles are inherently unsafe persists. Data from AAA showed that 73% of American drivers are too afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles; 63% of American adults feel less safe sharing the road with self-driving vehicles while walking or cycling.
This distrust is not unfounded. Autonomous systems require a huge amount of computational performance. A self-driving system capable of controlling the vehicle’s speed and direction must function with the highest level of safety every time the vehicle takes the road.
The potential for self-driving vehicles to lower the number of accidents caused by human error is enormous. Arm, a leader in the world of computing, has taken the next step toward making the future of safe self-driving possible. Arm’s Cortex-A65AE is the newest addition to their Automotive Enhanced portfolio of IP. The Arm Cortex-A65AE (Automotive Enhanced) will strengthen driver trust by delivering enhanced multithreading capability combined with integrated safety through Arm’s innovative Split-Lock technology. Autonomous vehicles will require advanced diagnostic technologies to strengthen driver trust.
The technical capabilities of the Arm Cortex-A65AE have big implications for the industry. This is Arm's first multithreaded Automotive Enhanced Cortex-A CPU, delivering up to 3.5x more performance than its predecessor, the Cortex-A53 in high-throughput workloads. This makes the Cortex-A65AE highly suitable for applications such as ADAS, Sensor Fusion in Autonomous Systems and in Cockpit designs for navigation and V2X. As is to be expected from Arm’s line of Automotive Enhanced IP, the Cortex-A65AE has been designed for ASIL D applications (with ASIL D certification currently ongoing) and achieves higher levels of safety with Dual Core Lock-Step (DCLS). It also features the innovative Split-Lock technology, which enables mixed-criticality automotive systems for applications such as sensor fusion in Autonomous Driving and vision in ADAS. All of this is delivered on a thermally efficient and throughput efficient microarchitecture, that is based on the multicore Arm DynamIQ technology and the Arm Armv8.2 architecture.
The Cortex-A65AE: First Multithreaded Processor with Integrated Safety
The Arm Cortex-A65AE is a truly innovative addition to Arm’s portfolio of automotive IP. This processor is designed to efficiently handle multiple streams of sensor data critical to the safe operation of a fully autonomous vehicle. Three new features work together to make this processor stand out.
The first is simultaneous multithreading. A first in the Cortex family, the Cortex-A65AE features a multithreaded processor that can execute two-threads in parallel on each cycle along with an out-of-order execution pipeline. Each of the two threads appear to software as two separate CPU resources. When configured in an eight-core Cortex-A65AE cluster (the maximum number of cores allowed in a single cluster), software will have access to 16 hardware threads and multiple software threads. This powerful processing ability allows for many more sensors to monitor the surroundings of the vehicle. Safety potential is increased with the addition of more cameras, LiDAR and radar. Multiple sensors will inform the vehicle on key variables impacting safety performance: the multithreaded processor can view the environment, sense what is happening, map out possible paths, and deliver commands to actuators on the determined path.
This processor works with the second biggest innovation in the Cortex-A65AE: ‘Split-Lock’ capability which Arm introduced paired with a processor designed for high-performance autonomous vehicles on the Cortex-A76AE. Essentially, Split-Lock adds high computing performance coupled with high safety integrity support. It adds a layer of flexibility that wasn’t available in previous lock-step CPU implementations.
Using Split-Lock, the system can be configured in two modes optimized for high-performance and high safety integrity. Cortex-A65AE supports up to eight independent cores in a single cluster (in split-mode)that can be used for diverse tasks and applications. “Lock mode” puts the CPUs in lockstep, supporting up to four pairs of cores for safety. The mode in each CA65AE cluster can be reconfigured at reset, thus producing a highly flexible system for mixed criticality, as well as chips targeting a variety of different automotive applications. This flexibility could even be extended to support potential fail-operational modes – the ability to continue to operate in a degraded mode rather than completely shutting the system down.
Finally, the Cortex-A65AE features an advanced microarchitecture designed for performance density and delivers high-throughput efficiency for memory intensive workloads in constrained thermal budgets. In thermally constrained systems (such as the front-facing camera in a vehicle, which is typically positioned in direct sunlight), the thermally-efficient Cortex-A65AE is able to deliver sustained, high throughput performance to process the data stream from the camera(s). Wth the transition towards electrification, managing power consumption is expected to become increasingly important.
What stands out about Arm’s new technology is that it also delivers an exceptional driver experience. More autonomy and advanced driver aids make riding in autonomous vehicles truly pleasurable. Augmented reality will inform drivers through head-up-displays, alerts and improved maps. Passengers will be immersed by rich video entertainment delivered by many screens throughout the car.
Most importantly, trust, reliability, and safety are all critical to the acceptance of these new cabin experiences. Sensors will not only be sensing out, but will be sensing in, monitoring drivers to reduce human error. This gives the vehicle the ability to track eyelid movement to detect tiredness, body temperature, vital signs and behavioral patterns. The high rate of accidents caused by human error will begin to decrease as Arm and the automotive industry continue to personalize the in-car experience.
The Next Innovation in Arm’s Safety Ready Program
Safety is at the core of Arm’s innovations, a priority made clear in the launch of the Arm Safety Ready Program last year. Arm Safety Ready products undergo rigorous development and testing to achieve functional, consistent safety. The goal of the Arm Safety Ready is to help break down driver distrust of self-driving vehicles with reliable, functional, and proven safety through consistent documentation, processes and features. For the automotive industry, Arm’s Safety Ready can reduce risk and accelerate the time to market for self-driving cars of the future.
The Split-Lock feature of the Cortex-65AE originates directly from Arm’s commitment to safety readiness in the automotive supply chain. The Cortex-65AE is a big step forward in strengthening driver trust of autonomous vehicles, but it’s just a piece of Arm’s larger commitment to vehicle safety and integrity.