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.
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.
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.”