I just heard from the folks at Xilinx that they've announced three automotive Targeted Design Platforms that enable automotive system designers to use Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology to meet the advanced performance and integration requirements of driver assistance, driver information and infotainment systems.
As part of this announcement they tried to scare me with an image of a pyramid showing – from bottom to top – the Base Platform layer, then the Domain-Specific layer, then the Market-Specific Layer, and (at the pinnacle) the Application layer.
Now, over the course of my career I've been inundated with presentations showing various pyramid incarnations (in the early days we just used triangles – we couldn't afford 3D pyramids). Also, if the truth be told, I've seen similar representations associated with various announcements from Xilinx, but this is the first one that really brought it home to me what they've been waffling on about for the last few years.
We start off with the Base Platform, which – in this case – is presented by Spartan-6 FPGAs that provide DSP support, memory bandwidth, and high-speed serial interfaces coupled with a hardware infrastructure in the form of development boards (about which, more later).
Next we have the Domain-Specific layer, which – in this case – comprises optimized IP blocks for interfacing and processors that can handle communications protocols and processing tasks, thereby reducing infrastructure development time.
In the case of the Market-Specific layer, special IP blocks are integrated and reference designs are built targeting specific applications. I was really amazed to see something called the Surround View Design Platform, for example, which uses parallel processing paths to process multiple camera images much faster than would be possible using traditional serial DSPs.
And then we have the cream on the cake, which is the application layer with targeted applications. One example is based on having a car with four cameras – one on each "corner". These cameras can be used for multiple applications, such as a lane-departure warning system (LDWS) that monitors white lines when you are travelling down a highway and alerts the driver if the car starts to drift into another lane without the indicator having being activated (it seems that over 65% of automotive injuries and fatal accidents are caused by cars drifting out of lanes or off the road).
The point is that the same four cameras (and FPGAs etc) can be used for a variety of applications, such as a back-up camera and display, blind-spot detection, and a bunch of other stuff. But don’t just listen to me waffling on – let's hear the official announcement from the horse's mouth as follows:
------------- Here's the official announcement -----------
With Xilinx Automotive (XA) Spartan-6 FPGAs providing the parallel-processing and real-time performance needed to drive complex multi-camera systems and a widening array of onboard devices focused on the driver and passenger experience, the platforms reduce development risk by providing a framework from which designers can focus on customization and product differentiation.
“Xilinx’s Targeted Design Platform approach for automotive makes it easier and faster for designers and manufacturers to deliver automotive systems requiring high-bandwidth connectivity, high-speed image processing, and high-resolution display performance,”
said Harvey Steele, vice president of segment marketing at Xilinx. “By leveraging existing intellectual property (IP), design methodologies and industry-leading FPGAs, Xilinx can help automotive designers spend more time focused on creating unique value in their systems, thereby speeding both time-to-demonstration and time-to-market.”
The ever-increasing demand for driver assistance, driver information and infotainment features and performance requires increased integration and higher performance of onboard electronic systems in both luxury and lower-priced automobiles alike. Xilinx’s Targeted Design Platform and comprehensive design ecosystem provide the development boards, kits, IP cores, tools, and silicon so that automotive designers can focus on adding unique value rather than spending too much time on design basics such as connectivity or DSP functionality.
“FPGA-based solutions can speed up development times, and time-to-demo, by re-using large parts of the design, only changing interfacing or features as needed to scale between platforms or between different OEM requirements,”
said Davor Kovacec, CEO at Xylon, a Xilinx Alliance Program member. “A great example is our logiCRAFT Companion Chip Kit, which is compatible with multiple host processors using industry standard interfacing and offers many of the features needed in infotainment system application development already right out of the box so that designers can focus on product differentiation.”
SAE Convergence 2010 attendees can visit Xilinx in Booth 917 to see three platforms tailored for the automotive market that can be used today to build FPGA-based systems. These include:
About Xilinx in automotive
- Driver Assistance Surround View Targeted Design Platform: A platform for processing multiple camera inputs, where four cameras can be used for a surround view system, or decoupled into multiple systems including rear view parking and blind spot detection. Different applications can be programmed into the same device to enable, for example, back-up operations and forward blind-spot detection using the same cameras, sensor and other electronics being repurposed for each task. Based on the Xilinx SP605 development board, the platform showcases how designers can integrate multiple key platform components. Along with the FPGA development board, a separate FMC daughter card deserializes the data from the four cameras. The megapixel sensors and boards are supplied by OmniVision, the SuperFisheye lens by Sunex, FPD-Link III LVDS serializer/deserializer chips by National Semiconductor, and the IP and daughter card are available from Xylon.
- Driver Information Hybrid Instrument Cluster Targeted Design Platform with Integrated Heads-up Display (HUD): Developed with Xylon, this platform leverages the high-bandwidth memory, high-speed I/O capabilities, and flexibility of Spartan-6 FPGAs to support high quality graphics for a variety of displays. The logiCRAFT 6 Development Board at the base of the platform provides many of the features required in emerging infotainment and driver information applications. At the Xilinx booth, visitors can see the platform support a heads-up display with the FPGA providing image distortion correction in an image being projected on the windshield. The associated fully functional reference design includes stepper motor gauge control, dual TFT displays (including the HUD), and a rear view camera input.
- Infotainment Companion Chip (CC) Development Platform: Available as a complete kit through Xylon (logiCRAFT 6 CC), the platform demonstrates the flexibility of pairing XA Spartan-6 FPGAs with popular infotainment host processors. Central to this platform architecture is the abstraction of host processor interfacing from application specific peripheral or connectivity extensions. This enables the processor and associated host interface type to be quickly changed without a companion chip system redesign. Xylon provides complete host interface controllers for popular standards such as PCI Express. Designers can then use standard Xilinx Embedded Development Kit tools to add connectivity and co-processing blocks to their application. The demo includes a rapid change from a USB to a PCIe interface while running typical infotainment peripheral functions.
Xilinx supplies programmable logic devices (PLDs) to the automotive industry with its complete line of FPGAs and CPLDs tested above and beyond the AEC-Q100 qualification standard, along with integrated platform solutions that accelerate development of in-vehicle infotainment and networking, driver information, and driver assistance applications.
XA Spartan-6 FPGAs provide a cost-optimized mix of logic and integrated features with a range of density and package options that enable developers to scale designs across multiple vehicle platforms. Spartan-6 XA FPGAs offer up to 75K logic cells, 3.1Mbits of block RAM, 132 dedicated DSP slices for massive parallel processing at 250MHz, and support memory access rates of up to 667Mbps using integrated memory controllers.
The hard-coded memory controllers and increased memory capacity of these devices enable fast buffering of video frames for vision-based driver assistance, infotainment, and hybrid driver information systems. For more information about Xilinx in automotive, visit: http://www.xilinx.com/automotive
Pricing and availability
The logiCRAFT-CC Companion Chip Kit is available now from Xylon for €1,495. The logiCRAFT 6 board is also available now from Xylon for €1295. The SP605 board for the Surround View TDP is available from Xilinx for $495, daughtercard and IP are available from Xylon, development boards from OmniVision, the SuperFisheye lenses from Sunex, and FPD-Link III LVDS serializer/deserializer chips are from National Semiconductor.