TOKYO NEC Electronics Corp. unveiled its first system-on-chip image processor for automotive applications, adding to microcontrollers used in power train and body controls. NEC said it is aiming for a de facto standard in the image recognition field for automotive applications.
The Imapcar (Integrated Memory Alley Processor-Car) processor features 100 Gops (giga operations per second) performance with about 1.7 W power dissipation. The performance is about five times higher than corresponding chips, said Yoshirou Miyaji, general manager of NEC Electronics' automotive systems division.
"Image processing systems have just started entering cars," Miyaji said. "We expect that the automotive image recognition systems market will actually take off around 2010, and rapidly grow to nearly 20 million units in 2015." Image recognition systems will be installed in half the cars in Japan and about 20 percent of the world's cars, he added.
NEC is aiming for a 40 percent share of the market.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Denso Corp. collaborated with NEC to implement the chip in autos. It was adopted as an image-processing unit for a pre-crash safety system for Toyota's Lexus LS460 to be introduced in the fall. Toyota already offered a pre-crash safety system that employs milliwave radar.
By adding the processor and two cameras, performance was upgraded to detect pedestrians. It was difficult for the milliwave radar alone to recognize pedestrians.
"We wanted to detect pedestrians, and this processor was the most suitable in terms of high speed processing and easy programming," said Koichi Fujita, general manager of Toyota's design unit.
Imapcar has 128 processing elements, each with embedded memory. The 128 parallel processing elements use the SIMD (single instruction stream multiple data stream) method. Each element processes four instructions per cycle. Thus, total performance was 100 Gops running at 100 MHz, enabling real-time image recognition at 30 frames per second.
"Users can program the image recognition processor to detect whatever they want," said Miyaji.
Imapcar is based on NEC image processing technology developed since the 1990s. Its predecessor, Imap-Vision, was used in a reticle alignment system.