Upgrade of Domain Controller in Self-Driving Car Industry

lin_marshalllin_marshall wrote 11/24/2021 at 05:41 • 4 min read • Like

Benefiting from the development of intelligent vehicles and the trend of automotive electronic and electrical architecture from distributed to centralized, the domain controller market is growing rapidly. 

It is predicted that in 2025, shipments of autopilot domain controllers will exceed 4 million sets, and shipments of smart cockpit domain controllers will exceed 5 million sets, with a compound growth rate of more than 50%. 

As the "brain" of intelligent cars in the future, the function of the domain controller is realized by the cooperation of the main control chip, system software (operating system, middleware), and application algorithm. 

From the current practice of automobile companies, the high-performance hardware represented by the main control chip will be the first to get on the car, while the operating system and application software will be continuously updated with the continuous iteration of the algorithm model, gradually releasing the utilization of embedded hardware, to realize the software definition of the car. 

Because of this, the field of domain controller master chip has become a popular track, and many manufacturers have laid it out one after another. 

self-driving technology

Domain Controller Chips Emerge Endlessly

At present, a large number of players have gathered in the field of domain controller master chips, especially in the field of autopilot domain controllers, including overseas manufacturers such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, NXP, Mobileye, TI, as well as domestic manufacturers such as Huawei, Horizon, Black Sesame, Core engine Technology and so on. 

Among the many manufacturers, the layout of Nvidia is earlier. In 2019, Nvidia released intelligent driving SoC Orin and Orin-based computing platform Drive AGX Orin. Then, after two years of evolution and polishing, the company launched OrinX SoC. NXP has also accumulated strength in the field of domain controller chips earlier. As early as 2017, it was reported that more than half of TOP15 companies have adopted the NXP S32 platform (a fully scalable automotive computing architecture) in their upcoming models. In 2020, NXP launched the S32G domain controller chip. 

TI launched a series of TDA4 chips. It is reported that the TDA4 chip supports deep learning and real-time image processing, 5-20W power consumption and performance efficiency can perform high-performance ADAS operations without active cooling, targeted integrated SoC with a general software platform can reduce system complexity and development costs, and a single chip supports access to 4-6 3 million-pixel cameras to improve vehicle perception and look processing capabilities. 

Heterogeneous Multi-Core, High Integration, Low Power Consumption

First of all, the main control chip of the domain controller is moving towards heterogeneous multi-core SoC. Domestic and foreign chip manufacturers are scrambling to launch SoC chips with more powerful computing power, and the computing power has risen from dozens of TOPS to hundreds of TOPS or even thousands of TOPS. 

The core of the ECU era is the MCU chip. In the era of the domain controller, the intelligence degree of automobiles increases greatly, and the complexity of operation increases exponentially. In the process of intelligent function development, high-performance hardware is often embedded in advance, and the function is updated through algorithm software, which requires the main control chip of the domain controller to have a stronger core and more powerful computing power. 

Different from the MCU chip based on CPU, the SoC chip integrates many modules such as CPU, AI chip (GPU/FPGA/ASIC), deep learning acceleration unit (NPU), and so on. The computing power of the SoC chips mainly comes from AI chips. 

Among them, GPU, which is mainly based on image computing, has significantly more computing units than CPU, which helps SoC chips to gain stronger computing advantages than MCU, so it has become a mainstream trend for domain controllers to use SoC chips. 

Of course, it is worth noting that the design of domain controller chips does not focus solely on computing power. 

We can also see that in terms of the manufacturing process, the domain controller master chip is moving towards a more advanced process, and it is still evolving, and the chip process has moved from 28nm to 16nm, 12nm, or even 7nm. 

Not only that, it is understood that some manufacturers have entered the 5nm process. 

In January this year, Qualcomm revealed that its Snapdragon Ride SoC will be built in a 5nm process and become the industry's first 5nm process autopilot chip. 

It is worth noting that behind the evolution of the process, it is the higher requirements of the domain controller for chip integration, power consumption reduction, cost optimization, and response speed improvement.

(by Easybom)