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CES 2020 Day 1 Recap

BRIAN SANTO: I’m Brian Santo, EE Times Editor-in-Chief, and you’re listening to EE Times On Air. This is a special edition of our podcast, with reporting live from the Consumer Electronics Show in fabulous, fabulous, fabulous Las Vegas!

The kickoff events every year for the Consumer Electronics Show include CES Unveiled, where the show organizers highlight technologies that they consider particularly noteworthy. And an overview of consumer market trends presented by the Consumer Technology Association, or CETA. Let’s get to it.

CES Unveiled is an odd distillation of the overall show. CES at large is spread out over multiple huge convention center halls and spills out into the convention facilities of nearby Vegas hotels. The sheer size of this show can be bewildering, but at least it’s organized. Audio systems here, video systems there, smartphones over yonder, agricultural electronics in the back forty. CES Unveiled, however, is a themeless grab bag of all of the above and more, smooshed together in one vast hotel meeting room which, year after year, is never properly air conditioned. On the plus side, the grub at the event is pretty high class, especially compared to the hash that conventions normally sling at the media. Reporters have no time to be picky about food at these events, so it’s notable when we’re being fed well. On the other hand, it’s also possible that reporters have no inclination to ever be picky about food, but that’s an issue for anthropologists.

Even a “best of” distillation of CES is enormous and impossible for one person to cover thoroughly. So we resolved to divide and conquer CES Unveiled with our buddies Jim McGregor and Kevin Krewell from TIRIAS Research.

Okay, so we just walked through CES Unveiled, where they show the hippest, coolest, newest stuff. And Jim has been crawling through it for plus two hours, and he’s going to tell us about the coolest things he’s seen in there.

JIM McGREGOR: Well, it’s kind of interesting, because I’ve been through it two hours and I’ve only gotten through half of it. Some of the same old stuff you kind of expect: applications, you know, smartphone handles and stuff like that. But there are a few really cool companies that are doing some cool stuff there. There’s one chip startup that’s doing a Bluetooth solution, Atmosic.

BRIAN SANTO: Yeah, so it’s a Bluetooth energy harvesting, right?

JIM McGREGOR: Not only doing Bluetooth, very low power Bluetooth, but they’re doing energy harvesting with RF signals, with light, with thermal and with motion. So actually theoretically, you could have a Bluetooth connectivity connected to a sensor with no battery.

BRIAN SANTO: I talked to this guy, he said that you can even like create like a switch, like a light switch. You can just plug it in anywhere and just the process of switching will power it enough to actually go, right?

JIM McGREGOR: Oh, yeah, yeah. And like motion and anything like that. Even heat. So no, it’s a very, very interesting solution. The company’s been around for a couple of years, but this whole energy harvesting is kind of a new aspect on it. And I only know of one other company that’s trying that. So this is… I think that’s a really cool area, especially for IoT devices.

BRIAN SANTO: So if it works, it’s a bit of a game changer, right?

JIM McGREGOR: Oh, absolutely. You know, when you’re thinking about every place you’re going to be embedding sensors and you want wireless connectivity, even in a home. Think about the possibility of putting sensors in just about anything and having connectivity. It could be a huge game changer. Not to mention wearables, medical, you name it. There’s a whole bunch of applications for it.

BRIAN SANTO: So what else did you see while you were walking around inside of CES Unveiled?

JIM McGREGOR: Well, I’ve been looking at some of the products, and I’ve seen a few cool ones. There’s one company, Max Pro, that’s actually got a portable exercise system that actually fits in your backpack, and you can do hundreds of exercises with it and connect it to, obviously, your smartphone to actually track everything and everything else.

BRIAN SANTO: So the electronics element, is it just the connectivity with your phone so that you can track? Or is there some other electronic element?

JIM McGREGOR: Actually, there is another electronic element, and that’s in the system itself. The system itself only weighs nine pounds but has to simulate being able to do 150 on both sides. So it actually has to simulate the tension. So there’s actually electronic control units inside the device.

BRIAN SANTO: Oh, that’s wicked cool!

JIM McGREGOR: There’s also a company that’s actually doing… and they’re actually called Vinyl Recorder. They’re actually doing vinyl recording where you can transfer a CD audio to vinyl.

BRIAN SANTO: That’s really wicked cool! So do you have a turntable?

JIM McGREGOR: I have a turntable, I have hundreds of records and I have a 17-year-old that’s a rock DJ. So yeah.

BRIAN SANTO: How about you, Kevin? You got a turntable?

KEVIN KREWELL: I do. In fact, I recently got a disk cleaner to clean my vinyl. I’ve got lots of vinyl.

BRIAN SANTO: Beautiful. Somebody just gifted me a 180 gram version of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” I am so happy. It’s beautiful. So we talked about CES Unveiled. Do you have anything else?

JIM McGREGOR: There’s one other one I saw called Zero Energy, and they’re kind of in the early stages, but they basically have a little plug in. So you plug your plug from your appliance, your light, your TV, whatever, into this, and it plugs into the wall. Now, doesn’t seem like much, but it’s basically your surge protector. You know the one that you plug all your electronics into that you’re supposed to turn off so it doesn’t suck energy but nobody ever does. Well, this automatically does it. It just senses the power level so that it actually turns off the energy to all your appliances when you’re not using them.

BRIAN SANTO: Very cool.

KEVIN KREWELL: How does it know when to turn it back on?

JIM McGREGOR: Whenever it senses that there is a power surge or a request.

BRIAN SANTO: All right! So this CES in the past… last year it was pretty heavy automobile-oriented. And from what we were talking about earlier before we actually turned on the recorder, it’s going to be that again this year, right?

JIM McGREGOR: Oh, absolutely. Over 50% of the press conferences over the next two days are automotive-related. And we’ve already been briefed on some of the announcements coming up. CES has become the primary show for automotive technology, especially with electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles coming to market.

BRIAN SANTO: So that’s kind of… it kind of is a sign of how the automobile industry is changing, not necessarily the consumer electronics business, right?

JIM McGREGOR: Absolutely. I mean, you gotta think about it. The electric vehicle is really not much more than a smartphone. It has sensors, it has processing, it has a battery pack. It’s a smartphone. And then when you think autonomous vehicles, basically a super computer. It’s the smartphone with a bunch more sensors and a lot more processing.

BRIAN SANTO: And wheels. Kevin, you actually went and saw Byton today. Tell me what you saw there.

KEVIN KREWELL: Speaking of turning your car into a smartphone, Byton turns it up to 11. The car has a huge display across the entire front cockpit, as well as there’s a tablet that’s mounted right to the steering wheel, with soft functions that can change over time. The cockpit display can be used for not just information like speed and that, but it also will put up other personalized information like your appointments for the day. As well as, if you’re stopped, it will allow you to go into office mode, and the office mode allows you to do video conferencing from your dashboard with multiple sources. Built in is 4G that they can upgrade to 5G. The car customizes itself to you when it recognizes you when you get in the car. It maps who you are, gives you a personality, your charts, your appointments, places you’ve been to and where you want to go to.

BRIAN SANTO: And it can actually shift the seating arrangement, right?

KEVIN KREWELL: Yeah. You can turn it around like a bucket seat. I mean, it’s actually set up for autonomous driving. But it’s not a true autonomous driving solution yet. This is the first generation part, the M-Byte, which is… even the name is b-y-t-e, like bytes as in digital. So I mean they’re really telegraphing that this is a completely digital platform that they are doing. It’s obviously an electric car, and most of the manufacturing is in China, but they partnerships with companies in Japan, partnerships with companies in Korea. The funding comes from all over the place, but I’d have to say most of it did seem to come from Japan. But they are looking at it as an international company. They have a facility in California, Santa Clara, and they have a design area in France. So they really consider themselves an international car company.

BRIAN SANTO: And Jim, you actually got to ride in an autonomous vehicle, right?

JIM McGREGOR: I did. But the announcement doesn’t come out until tomorrow.

BRIAN SANTO: So we’ll cut that, right?

JIM McGREGOR: No, no, no! Actually, this is interesting. Just going over the list, talking about automotive press releases, I mean, ZF, Bosch, Snyder, Continental, Qualcomm (yes, Qualcomm), Valejo, Toyota, Forencia (I think that’s right), Hyundai Motors are all going to be talking about automotive announcements tomorrow. So one of those companies has an autonomous vehicle here that I’ve already ridden in. I can’t tell you who.

BRIAN SANTO: Other products I saw at CES Unveiled included an electronic braking system for in-line skates. Electronic headsets designed to help fitful sleepers get a better night’s rest. Sleep devices is now a well-established category at CES. And I also saw a portable speaker that is roughly the size of two smartphones stacked on top of each other, but it expands sort of like one of those silicone kitchen colanders so that it’s roughly four or five smartphones thick. Having a larger cavity creates greater resonance for more ample sound.

But we know what engineers really like. I found the smallest combination digital multi-meter oscilloscope I have ever seen. I met the CEO of Pokit Innovations, and I asked him to introduce himself and tell us about the product.

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: So my name’s Paul Moutzouris. I’m the founder of Pokit Innovations.

BRIAN SANTO: So what we’ve got from Pokit Innovations are a couple of portable multi-meters. And the first one that I’m looking at, the first one that’s hit the market, is roughly the size of a luxury wristwatch. The other one is kind of a large pen. Tell me about the first one, which you’re already selling, and then I’ll ask you about the new one that you’ve got and the differences between.

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: Yeah, sure. So the first one’s called Pokit Meter. And what it is, is it’s a multi-meter oscilloscope and logger all in one. So it’s not just a multi-meter, it is a full-featured multi-meter with AC/DC current voltage. But as well, you can display the waveforms, pinch and drag those waveforms. So what it is, it’s really small. It has retractable leads. It allows you to take measurements. And it connects to your phone. So the measurements and the waveforms are displayed on your phone. It can also be a logger for up to six months. So you can put it away, take your phone away, come back later and retrieve all the data, upload it to the web.

BRIAN SANTO: And it’s a Bluetooth connection to the phone, right?

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: Absolutely. Wireless Bluetooth. The device is fully wireless, and its wireless connection to the phone, which is also wireless, so you’re completely portable. You can measure things anywhere, which is really what it’s about. But the new version, which is called Pokit Pro, which we just finished a Kickstarter in October, it raised 750,000 or more, and it was the highest funded DIY project in Kickstarter history, which we’re very surprised about I suppose. But I guess we realized it’s found a little bit of a place in the market. Its main difference is, it’s a full 600 volt Cat 3, where the original is a low voltage. The second version, the Pro, is also multi-channel and has some additional measurement capabilities. That’s why it’s a little bit bigger, because it does have to be able to be sticking in the mains power point. But other than that, it’s still fairly compact.

BRIAN SANTO: So the first one, the smaller one in the Pokit meter, that’s… what kind of battery power is that? And what’s the difference with the Pro?

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: So the Pokit meter has got a battery cell in there, like you get from the supermarket. The Pokit meter, because it’s got real-time acquisition and multi-channel, it needs a little bit more power. So we made it rechargeable. It’s a more premium product, it’s more of a professional product. But look, both of these products are equally as accurate, it’s just the measurement range is higher on the Pro. And what they’re really doing, if I could explain, is they’re consumerizing something which is traditionally only for engineers. Big, bulky, expensive equipment: multi-meters, oscilloscopes, big bricks of things that you can’t take away from your bench. You’re stuck there. You’re limited in your creativity. Now you can go anywhere with these guys, and they ft in your hand, you can put them in your pocket, and you can really take your creativity to new places.

BRIAN SANTO: Okay, let me get into some of the nuts and bolts. Can you describe the processing power that you have in the meter? And then what the difference would be with the new Pro that’s coming out.

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: So look, the processing is actually equivalent in both of the units. The difference is that the Pokit Pro, because of its high voltage Category 3 ratings, has to have a lot more front-end on it to deal with the transience in the high voltage capabilities. The Pro also has acquisition buttons, and it has a torch integrated in there. So it’s not so much about the processing power. The measurement core is similar. It’s just that the Pro has a lot more bolted on to give it that extra accuracy and range that it has.

BRIAN SANTO: So how accurate is it, and what gives it the accuracy?

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: So to give you an example, we had a… some of our backers in our original Pokit Meter product are more fanatical than we are. And what they actually did was, one guy took it and pitted it against a Seven Series Fluke. So I think that’s a $700 multi-meter. It’s a premium, right? He tested every single range. I mean every single range. And he came back and said it’s actually better than the Fluke. Now obvious the Fluke is doing high voltage, which is what the Pro does, but the meter in its range was better than the Fluke, even though the Fluke is probably about ten times the price.

BRIAN SANTO: Okay, so let’s talk about price then. The Pokit meter is how much? And the Pro will go for how much when it comes out?

PAUL MOUTZOURIS: Well, at the CES show, we are providing a promotion, which means that you can get the Pokit Meter for 71 US dollars shipped to your door. You can actually get that on our shop right now. The Pokit Pro, it’s the first time we’ve shown it in public. We’ve just sold 10,000 pre-orders. We’ve got more pre-orders going. It will ship in June. The development team is still finessing that. It’s selling for $95. So they’re both under $100. And the Pro, I can assure you, will be as accurate as the Fluke, which is at $700. And it’s got the waveforms, don’t forget that.

BRIAN SANTO: Fantastic. Thanks, Paul.


BRIAN SANTO: Nitin Dahad is based in London, but he’s also here at CES. He sat in on the CTA’s annual review of upcoming technology trends. Here’s Nitin’s report.

NITIN DAHAD: At the opening of CES 2020, we heard from Steve Koenig and Leslie Rohrbaugh of the Consumer Technology Association, what are the key trends to watch for in 2020. And some things were not surprising for EE Times’ audience. Others may be something new. So in summary, he talked about more intelligence in devices, electrification of vehicles and digital health being the top tech trends to watch for. So digging deeper into that, I think we’ve always talked about embedded intelligence because of the vast amounts of data and a lot of artificial intelligence that needs to go into devices to sort of make sense of that data. And so I think what they’re saying is, there’d be more connected intelligence and more consumerization of AI. In other words, a lot more of this going into everyday objects. And an example was, in CES Unveiled I saw an AI toothbrush from Oral B. So, you know, what Steve was saying was, the last decade was about the Internet of Things. But now, we kick off a new decade defined by the Intelligence of Things. And that really says it all.

But the other thing that he was already talking about was transport and mobility. And he said electrification is going to be the big thing, both in 2020 as well as over the next decade, just because of new innovations in battery technology and charging infrastructure and charging models, business models rather. So he was saying that we’ve really come to a point of inflection in electrification and electric vehicles. So that’ll be the big story for CES 2020.

The other big one is digital health. I’ve seen, as you’ll see in the CES Unveiled reports, a lot of smart wearables for health and health monitors and blood pressure monitors. So that’s going to be the other big thing.

Overall, I think what we’re seeing is really all playing into more connectivity with 5G and also enabling of more intelligence in lots of devices.

BRIAN SANTO: So there’s our rap for the first day of the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show. EE Times On Air will include daily podcasts from the Consumer Electronics Show, with episodes today, tomorrow and the next day. We’ve also got coverage on a special site set up specifically for the CES 2020 show. Check it out on That’s Also this week, we’re going to skip our weekly review podcast, which we normally do on Fridays. The weekly review will resume the Friday after next.

Thanks for listening today, and check back with us tomorrow for more from CES 2020. This podcast is produced by AspenCore Studio. It was engineered by Taylor Marvin and Greg McRae at Couple Studios. The segment producer was Kaitie Huss. The transcript of this podcast can be found on Find our podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Blubrry. I’m Brian Santo.

New TI Processors Target ‘Practical’ ADAS

By Junko Yoshida

LAS VEGAS — Texas Instruments is introducing at the Consumer Electronics Show this week ADAS and gateway processors — TDA4VM and DRA829V — built on TI’s latest Jacinto platform and designed to enable mass-market ADAS vehicles.


This move underscores the decision by several leading car OEMs to scale back from an original commitment to pioneer fully autonomous vehicles.


In a recent interview with EE Times, Curt Moore, general manager and product line manager for Jacinto processors, acknowledged that TI, too, faced the dilemma of “where we want to invest our time” for its next-generation automotive processors. TI’s emphatic answer was to design auto-grade processors that can address “edge, safety, and security” but zero in on “semiconductor affordability and accessibility.”


“We wanted to develop automotive processors that are scalable and applicable to a wider set of vehicles, including low-cost and affordable cars for younger drivers and those with low income,” explained Moore.


ADAS and gateway processors

TDA4VM processors are for ADAS, while DRA829V processors are developed for gateway systems “meeting with all the plumbing requirements,” noted Moore. They include specialized on-chip accelerators, according to TI, to expedite data-intensive tasks.


Both TDA4VM and DRA829V processors also incorporate a functional safety microcontroller so that OEMs and Tier One suppliers can “support both ASIL-D safety-critical tasks and convenience features with one chip,” said TI.


Perhaps most importantly, both the ADAS and gateway processors share one software platform. Moore said, “Developers can use the same software base from high-end to low-end vehicles.”


Asked about TI’s two new processors, Phil Magney, founder and principal at VSI Labs, told EE Times, “I see them as great companions, as both are necessary to support the latest trends in software-defined architectures. Together, these processors can take care of the heavy processing requirements of automated driving.”


Magney explained, “The environmental modeling gets very processor-intensive when you consider all the inputs necessary to support the task in real time. Furthermore, you need the data capacities, timing, and synchronization of all the sensor data. On top of this, you need safety and security, which are built into these chips.”


The right level of autonomy?

With the new processors, TI hopes to enable the right level of autonomy in new vehicles.


Calling Level 4 and Level 5 cars “still in the development stage,” Moore pointed out “corner cases” that fully autonomous vehicles have yet to solve and “well-defined use cases” [and operational design domains] that must be spelled out for higher-level autonomous vehicles. Given these challenges to full autonomy, Moore said, “This will be a slow journey” from the current Level 2 and Level 2+ vehicles.


TI, however, isn’t swearing off of higher-level ADAS functions. Indeed, TI’s TDA4VM is designed to achieve much better visibility at speeds necessary for on-chip analytics.


Specifically, the TDA4VM supports high-resolution 8-megapixel (MP) cameras that see farther, possibly even in fog and rain. TDA4VM processors can also simultaneously operate four to six 3-MP cameras.


Sameer Wasson, vice president and general manager of TI’s processor business unit, told EE Times that the new ADAS processors are also capable of fusing other sensors — including radar, LiDAR, and ultrasonic. “Our goal is to enable carmakers and Tier Ones to develop scalable but practical cars.”

TI’s new ADAS processor TDA4VM is not only highly integrated but also capable of fusing a variety of sensory data. (Source: TI)


Magney believes that the TDA4VM is scalable in the sense that it can “handle full 360° situational awareness for high-end ADAS or automated driving applications.” 


Beyond the ADAS processor’s ability to efficiently manage multilevel processing in real time, the key is that it can do the job within the system’s power budget. “Our new processors execute high-performance ADAS operations using just 5 to 20 W of power, eliminating the need for active cooling,” TI claimed.


Deep learning

TI also claimed that the latest Jacinto platform brings enhanced deep-learning capabilities. Noting that the platform offers full programmability, Moore said, if OEMs or Tier Ones plan to set up their own vision/camera/sensor fusion, the SoC allows their own perception.


A few analysts, however, are frustrated with the scant details that TI has provided for its ADAS processors. “Now TI says the TDA4VM can handle deep learning, but they don’t disclose any specs or details, let alone its performance,” said Mike Demler, a senior analyst at The Linley Group. Asked how TDA4VM might fare against Intel/Mobileye’s EyeQ chips, he said, “Now TI mentions AEB [automatic emergency braking] and self-parking, which require at least [Mobileye’s] EyeQ3 capabilities. But again, how much performance? We don’t know.”


VSI Labs’s Magney also noted that it won’t be easy to compare TDA4VM with Mobileye’s EyeQ chips. He noted, “Mobileye’s tight integration of processor and algorithms makes them a strong incumbent in the field.” TI’s edge might be that “as the industry moves from ADAS to automated driving, OEMs will desire more freedom to develop their own algorithms.”


Software-defined car

TI, too, is keeping in check carmakers’ desire to enable over-the-air (OTA) updates — with a goal to make software-defined cars possible.


“OTA isn’t generally possible without giving architecture upgrades inside a car,” observed Moore. Given the criticality of secure connectivity necessary for software updates, “I don’t see car OEMs going for OTA without a gateway processor or with just a legacy dumb MCU,” he added.


To that end, Moore described TI’s DRA829V processor as offering carmakers “a huge step function in the beginning of their journey to secure OTA.”


TI noted that new gateway processors “manage higher volumes of data and support evolving requirements for autonomy and enhanced connectivity.”

TI claims that it is the first to integrate the PCIe and GbE/TSN into its gateway processor. (Source: TI)


TI also touted the DRA829V processor as “the first in the industry to incorporate a PCIe switch on-chip in addition to integrating an eight-port gigabit TSN-enabled Ethernet switch for faster high-performance computing functions and communications throughout the car.”


So how big a deal is it for TI to integrate the PCIe and GbE/TSN into its gateway processor DRA829V?


Demler said, “Looks like it has an eight-port switch, which is more than what’s offered by NXP’s recently announced S32G’s 2x switch.” But, he added, the DRA829V processors don’t exactly match up with NXP’s S32G, which was designed as a full-fledged network processor.


But on a higher level, both NXP and TI are addressing the same trends in automotive architecture, Magney summed up. “You have massive amounts of data to handle and you need the plumbing to support that.”



TI’s Moore noted that both TDA4VM and DRA829V samples have been already in the hands of a large number of customers since May.


According to TI, “Developers can get started immediately with Jacinto 7 processors development kits and buy the new TDA4VMXEVM and DRA829VXEVM evaluation modules on for $1,900 each.”


Pre-production TDA4VM and DRA8329V processors are available now, only from TI, at $97 in 1,000-unit quantities. Volume production is expected to be available in the second half of 2020.

CES Unveiled: Gadget Fest with a Moment of Zen

By EE Times Editorial Team

LAS VEGAS – CES Unveiled is a tech fest where startups and established companies pitch and showcase their brightest new ideas and shiniest products, with a strange emphasis on self-improvement.

You name it, Unveiled has everything from ultra-stable drones, “bidirectional” EV chargers to smart road systems that let every car know road conditions and a wrist-band that tells you which foods suit your unique DNA.

The products and prototypes unveiled are an eclectic mix. They often surprise us by offering solutions for problems we didn’t know we had.

In the following pages, we share more than a dozen new technologies/applications spotted at the event on Sunday. To see our full slide show, please click here.

Thin Enough and Fast Enough for the City

4D Gravity Comes to Drones
DNA-Based Shopping
Valerann smart roads system
Zen Health with Gardens and Orbs
Plugging EVs into the Grid
Why Is SiFive at CES?
Vital signs monitoring using face detection
Commuter smart safety helmet now has Alexa built in
How well are you brushing your teeth?
Vanity, Thy (Latest) Name is Opté-Skin
Remotely Charged from Milwaukee
Reachy the Legless Robot
Wearables for dogs: find out your dog’s feelings
Non-invasive sensors to monitor aging parents
Thin Enough and Fast Enough for the City
Pokit goes Pro
Smile, you’re on Unveiled Camera
Cool, huh?

Siemens-Arm Lets Car OEMs Envision 2025 Auto Architecture

By Junko Yoshida

LAS VEGAS — Bolstered by its new partnership with Arm, Siemens is ready to ask car OEMs some tough questions at the Consumer Electronics Show. Namely: 1) Do you already know what the architecture of your 2025 automotive platform looks like? 2) If so, have you verified your whole vehicle?

In an interview with EE Times, David Fritz, global technology manager, Autonomous and ADAS at Siemens, explained that if carmakers are still dithering with issues like which CPU, GPU, or MPU they should use in next-generation cars, “they’ve already missed the boat.”

Fritz described recent automotive history as making “a series of incremental changes to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).” While carmakers might feel compelled to add hot new features that pop up in the market, too many have resorted to “one Band-Aid solution after another” for new models, he said, arguing that they’ve been doing so without really thinking about the architecture of 2025 vehicles. That’s one reason, he said, why car OEMs have failed to chart a single migration path from ADAS to autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Car OEMs See No Easy ADAS-to-AV Path

Envision your vehicle platform of 2025
Siemens’s new partnership with Arm seeks to alter the ad hoc — and often siloed — design choices that automakers have been making for vehicle development.

What do carmakers want in their auto architecture of 2025? (Source: Siemens)

The partnership will combine pre-built and pre-verified Arm IPs with Siemens’s PAVE360 — billed as an all-encompassing validation and simulation system designed for autonomous vehicle hardware and software development. The goal is to enable automakers and suppliers to “envision their next-generation automotive platform,” said Fritz.

He explained that Siemens’s PAVE360 extends “digital twin simulation beyond processors to include automotive hardware and software subsystems, full vehicle models, fusion of sensor data, traffic flows, and even the safety of autonomous vehicles.”

If a carmaker chooses a certain processor for specific applications in, say, a 2020 vehicle, what could happen is that the new chip might not fit the enclosure size required in a 2025 car platform. Similarly, it might not meet the heat dissipation threshold demanded in the 2025 architecture. “You make one decision now, which turns out to make a bang-bang-bang domino effect in the rest of the whole 2025 car model,” said Fritz.

Put more bluntly, Fritz said that a carmaker’s bad decision six years ago could end up killing the entire new model for 2025.

It’s important for carmakers and Tier Ones to be able to “simulate and verify subsystem and system-on-chip designs and to understand how they perform within a vehicle design from the silicon level up, long before the vehicle is built,” he explained.

Siemens’s Fritz last year told EE Times, “I have actually seen a block diagram of an AV SoC internally designed by every major car OEM.” He stressed, “Tesla isn’t alone. Every carmaker wants to control its own destiny.” If so, with how many of those major car OEMs is Siemens already working today — to simulate and verify their whole car architecture of 2025?

Fritz said, “We’ve been working with a few,” without naming names. When asked to describe a 2025 vehicle architecture, he said, “While they all come from different directions, surprisingly, they appear to come to a similar platform.”

Why PAVE360?
The power of PAVE360 lies in its ability to simulate certain functions, SoCs, subsystems, or software in the context of an entire vehicle. Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor of VSI Labs, last year told EE Times that PAVE360 is “pretty unique.” He explained that the foundation of Siemens’s PAVE360 is a concept called the “digital twin.” Noting that a digital twin is a duplicate (simulated) version of the real world, Magney said, “For developers of vehicles or components, this literally means they can fully simulate their targets at any scale, whether it is a chip, software competent, ECU, or complete vehicle.”

In short, as Fritz claimed, the advantage of PAVE360’s methodology is its ability to correlate simulation with the physical platform.

Fritz pointed out a huge difference between simulating an SoC on a PC, for example, and simulating it in the context of a whole vehicle. “The two [approaches and their results] are so far away.”

What’s in it for Arm?
The advantage for Siemens working with Arm is clear. Given the ubiquity of Arm cores in a host of automotive chips, Siemens’s deepened relationship with Arm only adds fuel to PAVE360’s broader appeal.

But what’s in it for Arm?

First, associating Arm core designs with PAVE360 enhances the credibility of Arm as a provider of IP cores for the automotive market.

Mark Fitzgerald, associate director, Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics, added, “Arm gains the ability for easier, faster design of custom chips for ADAS and autonomous applications.” He said that “automakers are moving to custom silicon (i.e., Tesla’s Full Self-Driving chips) rather than relying on off-the-shelf solutions, with some OEMs working on in-house solutions.” He noted, “The teaming up allows chip designers to use Arm architecture and IP along with Siemens’s PAVE360 to create custom ADAS and autonomous driving SoCs in a virtual environment.”

PAVE360 and Arm automotive IP: digital twin from concept to end of life (Source: Siemens)

Asked about how long Siemens has been working with Arm, Siemens’s Fritz told us “almost a year.” But the relationship between the two companies got a lot closer, as they have been engaged in more detailed, weekly engineering calls since last summer, when the legal arrangement between Siemens and Arm got sorted out. Under the agreement, Siemens today has access to all of Arm’s wide-ranging IP cores. Siemens is now in a position to discuss with Arm specific processing core designs such as Arm’s split lock logic or big.LITTLE architecture when placed against certain applications in the real world.

So what sort of changes might the industry expect from Arm in its future cores or processor architecture for the automotive market?

Strategy Analytics’ Fitzgerald told EE Times, “The likely trend would be to produce a single, very powerful chip for an ADAS or autonomous driving domain controller rather than distributed computing that is used today. OEMs will choose the best mix of centralized versus distributed computing based on application.”

What about other processor IP guys?
To be clear, Arm isn’t the only processor core IP supplier. Mobileye, now an Intel company, has been using MIPS cores for years. Ceva and Imagination might be also seeking to get designed into chips for digital cockpits or automotive perception chips, for example.

Asked if Siemens is planning to work with other IP suppliers, Fritz said, “The beauty of our system is that they can plug their cores in the cloud” tied to PAVE360 in order to evaluate their cores in the context of a whole vehicle.

Fitzgerald noted, “The biggest risk in missing out on the collaboration that PAVE360 offers is between OEMs, semi vendors, software providers, and Tier One suppliers.”

He said, “Chip vendors can gain by working with Arm IP and PAVE360 tools to quickly validate and verify chip design more efficiently and cost-effectively.” However, he cautioned, “Chip vendors can also be threatened if an OEM or even a large-tier supplier decides to use Arm IP and the PAVE360 tools to design chip solutions — taking the chip vendors out of the design/validation loop.”

Competitors to Siemens
Other vendors are also offering similar verification tools, according to Fitzgerald.

Cadence, for example, provides design tools across all the PCB, system-in-package (SiP), and SoC fabrics, which makes it possible to do coherent and integrated ECU design and analysis.

ANSYS, on the other hand, enables customers to do “multi-physics simulations to simultaneously solve power, thermal, variability, timing, electromagnetics, and reliability challenges across the spectrum of chip, package, and system to promote first-time silicon and system success.”

Last fall, Synopsys launched native automotive solutions “optimized for efficient design of autonomous driving and ADAS SoCs.”

Vector, meanwhile, claims to offer “comprehensive solutions” for developing ADAS systems in the form of software and hardware tools and embedded components. These include measuring instruments to acquire sensor data, checking and optimizing ECU functions, software components, and algorithm design.

Siemens’s Fritz, however, made it clear that, overall, nobody does the job as comprehensively as PAVE360.

NXP Launching Auto Network Processor

By Junko Yoshida

LAS VEGAS — NXP Semiconductors is coming to the Consumer Electronics Show to launch a new “Automotive Network Processor.”

NXP’s S32G is “a single-chip version” of two processors — an automotive microprocessor and an enterprise network processor — combined, said Ray Cornyn, vice president and general manager, Vehicle Dynamics Products. The S32G functions as a gateway processor for connected vehicles, as it offers enterprise-level networking capabilities. It also enables the latest data-intensive ADAS applications while providing vehicles with secure communication capabilities, he explained.

What NXP S32G entails (Source: NXP Semiconductors)

A closer look inside the S32G reveals a car OEM wish list for next-generation vehicles in 2021 and beyond.

Among the wishes are: over-the-air software updates — à la Tesla — to make vehicles “software upgradeable,” a shift to new domain-based vehicle architectures (i.e., consolidation of ECUs), beefed-up security features (including intrusion detection/monitoring), the vehicle’s ability to analyze data on the edge without constantly depending on the cloud, and upgraded safety to ASIL D.

In “connected vehicles,” car OEMs are looking for new business opportunities, including subscription models and usage-based insurance.

“It is a worldwide trend among car OEMs to bring all these new business opportunities and capabilities to next-generation vehicles,” said Brian Carlson, director, product line management for vehicle network processors at NXP.

If a software-upgradeable car is the automotive industry’s objective, the S32G seems designed to bring car OEMs a step closer.

Phil Magney, Founder and Principal at VSI Labs, observed that S32G “is designed to serve as the gateway to centralized domain processing, which is the supporting architecture of the software-defined car. Furthermore, new vehicle architectures must support tremendous volumes of data through multiple interfaces.”

He noted, “Up until this point, networking has been a bit of an afterthought. But in reality, it is quite critical since there is so much data moving around the vehicle. The S32G can handle all the plumbing and associated security, timing, and safety requirements.” He added that there are many network controllers designed by major chip suppliers and Tier Ones. But among existing network processors, “I have not seen anything that aggregates everything into one chip like the S32G.”

The new processor is already sampling, and car OEMs are currently testing S32G, said Carlson. To demonstrate the appeal of S32G among key automotive players, NXP, in its press release, shared a quote from Bernhard Augustin, Audi’s director of ECU Development Autonomous Driving: “We found the unique combination of networking, performance, and safety features of the S32G processor to be ideal for use in our next-generation ADAS domain controller.”

S32 family of processors
S32G is part of NXP’s S32 family of processors based on a unified architecture of high-performance MCUs, MPUs, application-specific acceleration, and interfaces.

The S32 family, designed to be scalable, allows developers to create software in a uniform environment across application platforms.

The goal is to let developers reuse their expensive R&D work, shortening time to market as the automotive industry copes with rapid changes in vehicle architectures over the next several years.

NXP noted that the platform maintains “automotive quality, reliability, and ASIL D performance across multiple application spaces throughout vehicles.”

Vehicle network processor
First and foremost, S32G provides an unprecedented level of networking and processing capabilities.

Shown in the block diagram below, the S32G processor incorporates lock-step Arm Cortex M7 microcontroller cores and an industry-first ability to lock-step clusters of Arm Cortex-A53 application cores.

As the amount of data collected and transported inside a vehicle grows exponentially, the processor’s ability to accelerate automotive networks and Ethernet packets becomes increasingly critical, Carlson explained.

It’s one thing to tout a networking processor’s ability to handle large data. But it’s a whole different story if the chip can actually accelerate data processing. Without acceleration, the vehicle network can easily bog down, said Carlson, making it impossible for the new vehicle to offer critical services with the deterministic network performance demanded by car OEMs.

S32G processors are designed to offload transport layers so that its communication engine can achieve low latency, he noted. S32G features “network acceleration blocks” designed for automotive and Ethernet networks.

Included in S32G network features are 20× CAN/CAN FD Interfaces, 4× Gigabit Ethernet Interfaces, and a PCI Express Gen 3 Interface.

As a comparison, Magney noted that Tesla “supports six CAN channels, four Ethernet channels, and eight serial lines for the cameras.” Calling Tesla “a proxy for future vehicle architectures,” Magney said, “Not surprisingly, NXP supplies Ethernet and CAN controllers to Tesla.”

Other key features integrated inside the S32G are security and safety.

The S32G, like all other S32 platform processors, embed high-performance hardware security acceleration, along with public key infrastructure (PKI) support for trusted key management, enabled by its Hardware Security Engine (HSE). The firewalled HSE is the root of trust supporting secure boot, providing system security services, and protecting against side-channel attacks.

As for safety, S32G processors offer full ASIL D capabilities, including lock-step Arm Cortex M7 microcontroller cores and an industry-first ability to lock-step clusters of Arm Cortex-A53 application cores, allowing new levels of safety performance with high-level operating systems and larger memory support.

Versatility of S32G
NXP’s Carlson made the point that the beauty of S32G lies in its versatility. The S32G can be used in many different places inside a vehicle — ranging from a gate processor to a domain controller and ADAS safety processors.

Where in a vehicle S32G can be used (Source: NXP)

VSI Labs’ Magney observed, “The S32G appears complementary to many of the AV or ADAS domain controllers because it consolidates a handful of chips into one.” He added, “Otherwise, the functionality of the S32G would be scattered with multiple transceivers and controllers to handle all the data traffic. The S32G also contains all the critical timing elements, memory, security, and network accelerators necessary to support all the data being passed around inside the vehicle.”

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