Renesas' R-Car series of automotive Systems-on-Chip (SoC) devices has advanced into its second generation to help automakers transform the driver's-seat experience to higher levels of safety and convenience. The advanced SoC devices support high-level technologies and the informative, sophisticated displays more typically associated with modern glass-type aircraft cockpits. In this EDGE story, Masayasu Yoshida, from the Renesas Automotive Information Solutions Department, provides an update on the evolution of the driving experience and then highlights our latest R-Car platform solutions.
Using electronics technology to advance car information systems at a full throttle pace
Car-information systems (CISs) improved through fusing of vehicle control with IT technologies are making remarkable progress as the global automotive industry pushes to develop safer and more comfortable "smart cars." For instance, new electronic systems already can provide drivers with car information such as a continuous "surround view" display generated by circuits that combine inputs from multiple cameras and apply real-time image processing and object recognition technology. Other fully integrated, car-information systems deliver entertainment information such as impressive navigation and display audio, including IT information such as access to cloud-based maps, movies, and more.
Major advances in multiple-display layouts create ever deeper, more multifaceted in-car information environments in cars and trucks. Interiors that have a navigation screen, instrument panel, rear-seat entertainment screen, and other features are now quite common.
Automotive engineers are devoting major efforts toward achieving better human-machine interfaces (HMIs) that track driver operations and show car status updates in truly supportive ways. They are making data presentations more useful, too, especially by using head-up displays (HUDs) that project critical information directly onto the windshield within the driver's normal line of sight. Development teams are also integrating faster-responding high-definition displays in vehicles to meet consumers' growing demands for new information-, communication- and entertainment-type features and detailed control, status and alArm graphics that are easier to understand and manipulate.
One main fact compels companies in the automotive industry to develop more sophisticated in-car systems with better HMIs and improved, more pleasing graphics: as the driver seat evolves into a fully supported space, with services similar to those available in the integrated cockpit. (See Figure 1.)
Offering automotive system engineers excellent choices for designing superior in-vehicle systems
Powerful information processing capabilities—even beyond those of mainstream home computers—are essential for building in-car information systems that control multiple displays, implement comprehensive driver assistance, and handle an expanding array of additional features and services. To deliver adequate application performance, these systems require very high-performance CPUs, high-performance graphics, and sophisticated multiple-display support.
Renesas is a global leading company in providing highly reliable R-Car solutions that meet those system design needs, among others. (See Figure 2.) We supply optimized SoCs in high volumes to automotive OEMs in many countries suitable for varying car grades and different marketing destinations.
Implementing premium cockpit-like driver environments with top-end R-Car H2 SoC devices
The high-end R-Car H2 devices have capabilities that allow automotive engineers to create visually stunning and incredibly pleasant and effective systems that deliver sophisticated environments for safe and enjoyable driving. These cutting-edge semiconductors combine an integrated cockpit environment with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). They can deliver many popular application capabilities, including cloud connectivity, 3D navigation maps, infotainment formats (TV and DVD), views from forward- and rear-facing cameras, warnings of adjacent vehicles, and much more.
One key to the outstanding abilities of R-Car H2 SoC devices is the chips' complex, fine-tuned system architecture. The devices integrate nine CPU cores: 4 sets of quad-core Arm® Cortex®-A15 that achieves very high performance; 4 sets of quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 that supports low-power operation; and an SH-4A CPU that provides excellent real-time processing.
Not only does the R-Car H2 SoC have the complex bus and timing structures necessary to integrate all nine CPU cores, it incorporates innovative control functions that maximize the operational aspects of the main processors. In fact, this chip is the world's-first* car-system LSI to employ Arm's 'bit.LITTLE' method of dynamic process allocation. This automatic internal capability-management approach merges high-performance processing with low-power operation (see Figure 3). It continuously delivers the requisite application capability at the lowest possible power drain, shifting and sharing execution between the most appropriate CPU cores in an optimum manner.
Also, to ensure that automotive systems built with H2 SoCs can always provide the driver with timely support functions, these devices have an SH-4A CPU dedicated solely to handling real-time processing tasks.
Because R-Car H2 SoCs incorporate multiple leading-edge technologies, these second-generation chips leapfrog over the capabilities of the first-generation H1 devices, which automotive engineers have praised for being powerful performers. Specifically, H2 devices deliver over twice the peak performance of H1 devices. They achieve up to a 50% improvement in responsiveness and approximately double the maximum computational output: up to 25,000 DMIPS. Their built-in high-end graphics processor—a Power VR G6400 GPU—allows up to 10x faster graphics responses, too. Further, because H2 SoCs support Version 3.0 of the OpenGL ES API, they provide smoother image rendering and improved anti-aliasing corrections.
Renesas H2 SoCs make possible significant upgrades to driver-assistance applications, thanks to their higher performance and the improved support functions they provide. Four inputs for high-resolution digital cameras fully support display screens showing vehicle-surround views. Moreover, the devices' built-in image-recognition core delivers four times the performance of conventional LSI chips.
Building mid-range car information systems by applying higher-performance R-Car M2 chips
Renesas R-Car M2 SoCs are excellent middle-range solutions for integrated cockpit-like car-information systems that boast substantially expanded features and capabilities and performance. In typical car and truck installations, M2 chips are ideal solutions for producing more-capable multifunction, integrated car information systems. These SoCs can drive a dashboard or instrument panel LCD that tracks and displays air conditioner status, battery level, and the status of other vehicle systems. Beyond that, the devices can also deliver sophisticated navigation services, incorporating cloud-based weather and traffic data, as well as handle the processing of web content, DVD playback, and various A/V entertainment formats.
They can connect directly to two LCD screens, including head up display(HUD) installations. They support multimedia distribution to the rear seat via the Ethernet AVB and MOST protocols. To deliver overall high levels of performance, the devices contain both 2 sets of dual-core Cortex-A15 CPU and an SGX544-MP2 GPU. Like our H2 chips, they dedicate an SH4A core to ensure the prompt execution of safety and other tasks that mandate real-time processing.
Powerful Development Support
As previously mentioned, Renesas is a leading global supplier of advanced system processors for cars and trucks. Our second-generation R-Car series enables automotive firms to successfully implement a full range of emerging smart-car strategies. These SoCs are ideal platform-level solutions for car information systems and we aid automotive engineering teams around the world by providing them with first-class development products and services. Software packages for popular operating systems are available, as are popular hardware and software tools.
To promote flexible, efficient software development, our system solutions use an open platform that accommodates multiple modules for implementing specific in-car functions. Full and partial software compatibility between R-Car devices maximizes returns on engineering investments and speeds system development and product evolution (see Figure 4). This compatibility makes it easy for automotive engineers to implement function changes and software updates.
The many products and services offered by the R-Car Consortium bolster the system development support available from Renesas. This large and growing organization of OS providers, middleware suppliers and system integrators collaborates to provide effective, time- and cost-saving engineering tools and various types of software.
A typical example of Consortium activity provides an insight into the value this group produces. Last year, members became aware that car information system developers were having problems coordinating HMI design work with software development, because the two efforts tended to diverge. Subsequently they addressed this issue by developing new design tools that now allow HMI experts and software engineers to seamlessly link their development efforts. Today the automotive industry benefits because it is better able to apply the strengths of R-Car SoCs to solve in-car electronic challenges.
Looking ahead, Renesas will continue to help enhance the Consortium's outreach, boost its membership and expand the amount and quality of the products and services it offers.
*A world's-first accomplishment as of November 2013, based on an internal survey.
** Ethernet AVB extends Ethernet to support multimedia streaming.
Arm and Cortex are registered trademarks or trademarks of Arm Limited. Other product and service names used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.
The R-Car Consortium: a Crucial Support Mechanism for CIS Developers
Engineering teams creating in-car information systems must write huge volumes of code, and the resulting high development costs impact the cost of end products. The R-Car Consortium— a collaborative effort by Renesas and many other companies—aims to overcome system development obstacles and speed code creation and testing. Its membership is large and growing (see Figure A).
This international organization offers a variety of software development tools and components. Moreover, because the group includes systems integration experts, it also supplies optimized platforms and design support for common types of in-vehicle applications.
One of the R-Car Consortium's ongoing activities is holding forums to introduce, exhibit and demonstrate the latest system development solutions available from its members. For example, a forum held in October 2013 drew a large crowd of enthusiastic participants. At that event, active discussions of R&D ideas and system development issues took place. Those face-to-face exchanges directly inspired the creation and introduction of more powerful methods and tools for reducing the cost of developing advanced products that apply R-Car SoC devices. Future events are certain to drive further progress in finding innovative problem-solving methods and tools.