Level Up: Why Imagination and DENSO are teaming up on automotive.

There’s no doubt that big changes are coming down the road in the automotive world. The main thrust of these changes is undoubtedly the steady move to self-driving cars. While Tesla is perhaps the biggest name in town at the moment, the established players, such as the VW group, BMW, Volvo, are not standing still and have been accelerating their plans to give Elon Musk’s Palo Alto-based company a run for its money. In fact, all the major players have announced their plans to create self-driving cars, with Ford perhaps the most aggressive, announcing a plan to produce a car without a steering wheel by 2021. For this to become a reality, and to be accepted by society at large, the safety of these self-driving systems will have to be proven to be rock solid.

DENSO, one of Japan’s best-known automotive component manufacturing companies, has been working to develop Electronic Control Units (ECUs) to support future automotive features. It focuses on producing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as sensors that monitor that road, and communications systems that can provide vehicles with critical information on traffic volumes and road conditions.

Raising the bar on autonomous cars

Right now, the most advanced self-driving cars on the road offer Level 3 autonomy, which enables the driver to let the car drive itself, but only within known and relatively predictable environments such as motorways. This is because on a freeway there is a consistent pattern of cars moving at speeds within always visible boundaries marked by white lines, road borders, and consistent road signs.

To move beyond this to Level 4 and Level 5, where cars can drive themselves on B-roads and busy high streets, will require much more advanced vision and processing systems, with the adding complications of more unpredictable traffic patterns, pedestrians, more complex road signs and more variable lighting conditions.

All of this can be summed in one word – data, and this needs to be accumulated by the vehicle and then analysed as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

For this to occur, the processing systems in cars will have to operate at ever greater speeds. This is where Imagination’s MIPS CPUs and PowerVR GPUs can make the difference.

The MIPS advantage

For MIPS CPUs a key advantage is hardware multi-threading, where multiple threads or processes can be executed concurrently, greatly increasing efficiency over non multi-threaded CPUs for highly parallel applications – basically enabling more work to be done in any given time.

MIPS has already proven its worth in current and upcoming vision processors, where multiple MIPS CPUs are used to handle a variety of tasks in real-time such as data control and management, and on- and off-chip general data transactions. These are examples of how multi-threading capabilities can boost performance in embedded applications that require superior compute capabilities within ultra-low power envelopes.

The DENSO philosophy

DENSO already has solid experience producing today’s ADAS solutions, such as lane keeping, blind-spot detection and collision avoidance systems. To take things to the next level however, and achieve higher levels of autonomy and safety, there is a need to move away from the limitations imposed by the current Controller Area Network (CAN bus) architecture.

To support this it has announced a partnership with Imagination Technologies to engage in joint research on hardware multithreading. The companies’ joint aim is to further enhance and optimise the use of hardware multi-threading through analysis and application testing.

In partnership DENSO and Imagination will work together to accelerate the evolution of computing technology to support these increasingly sophisticated automotive electronics systems. We share the goal of ensuring processing for future automotive electronics systems reaches even higher levels of performance and efficiency, and we both believe that multithreading is a key technology in achieving this goal.

Creating safer roads

DENSO is a company that at its heart seeks to make a positive contribution to wider society in a broad sense, with products that can enhance people’s lives. It sees the large scale commercialisation of autonomous driving as an example of this, as the technology is predicted to greatly reduce fatalities from traffic accidents. To support this in early 2016 DENSO created the ADAS Promotion Division, as it looks to accelerate research and technological development into ADAS initiatives.

The partnership between Imagination and DENSO fits well with this philosophy. It will further enhancing the safety and autonomy in cars and help to make self-driving cars a reality, increasing efficiency and enhancing road safety around the world.