Automotive SoCs at ISSCC showed designs that were more aggressive in some ways than their counterparts for mobile phones and notebook computers.
Two SoCs for cars were the most interesting, bleeding-edge client computing chips in the digital processor session at this year’s International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). They packed more cores using more aggressive process technology than the latest smartphone and PC processors described by Mediatek and Advanced Micro Devices.
Renesas designed both chips for a 16nm FinFET process. A car safety chip implementing the ISO26262 standard packed eight ARMv8 cores, two ARM R7 cores and three Imagination GPU cores. A video processor for infotainment and driver assistance used 17 video processors of six different types.
“In the past the tech drivers were smartphone applications processors, but that has been changing,” Seiji Mochizuki, a senior Renesas engineer who helped design the video SoC told me in an interview. Given the demands of infotainment and driver-assistance systems, “auto SoCs will need much, much more performance than a smartphone and in the future automotive SoCs must be developed using the newest technologies,” he said.
“It’s a market requirement, because we need to handle a lot of data,” added Chikafumi Takahashi, a Renesas engineer behind the car safety SoC.
The Renesas automotive safety SoC leapfrogged mobile processors to use a 16nm process. (All images: ISSCC)
David Kanter, a microprocessor analyst who often attends ISSCC agreed, noting cars are not as power constrained as handsets and have rapidly growing silicon needs in the run up to self-driving cars in the next decade.
“The slowing of mobile phone market means everyone looking for the next big opportunity and clearly the data center is one where Intel is dominant, but automotive has a lot of green field opportunities where people such as Nvidia can differentiate,” he said.
Cars are also ripe environments for integrating and virtualizing many functions into single SoCs, using separate designs for safety-critical functions as Renesas showed, said Kanter. The video SoC is now sampling, but Renesas is still evaluating the safety chip.
Next page: Stepping into the 16nm node
The 12-channel Renesas SoC decodes high def video at 197mW.