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Freescale's S32V silicon steps towards self-driving cars

Chipmaker Freescale announced today the S32V microcontroller, capable of processing sensor data and controlling driver-assist functions in cars.

Freescale S32V chip
Freescale's just-announced S32V microcontroller processes sensor data to enable driver-assist features. Freescale

The road to true self-driving cars will see increasingly effective driver-assist features deployed in production vehicles over the next few years. Chipmaker Freescale announced a new microcontroller chip today to help pave the way.

The S32V microcontroller, combining four ARM cores and APEX image processing from partner Cognivue, is capable processing sensor input from cameras, radar, laser and sonar sensors, developing a real-time environment for a car's systems to react to. Automakers can use this chip to develop the next generation of driver-assist features, which could involve self-steering combined with adaptive cruise control for highway journeys, or automated self-parking, to name two examples.

In addition, the S32V chip can be used in the second stage of a self-driving system to process decision-making algorithms from the environmental model, sending out steering, braking and acceleration signals to the car.

Your car likely already has Freescale silicon controlling one or more of its subsystems, as the company ships a million microcontrollers a day to automotive clients. These chips run everything from instrument clusters to power steering. The S32V chip was developed by Freescale's automotive practice, so designed to meet automotive qualification standards with ISO 26262 compliance.

According to Freescale vice president Matt Johnson, the S32V builds on Freescale's work developing chips for the automotive sector, and allows automakers to use the OpenCL environment to bring their own software development on board. In a call with CNET, Johnson pointed out that Freescale is the leading provide of chips for radar-based adaptive cruise control systems in cars. When asked about power consumption, a crucial specification for automotive systems, Johnson said the company was still testing the S32V.

The S32V chip will begin shipping in July, 2015 but will likely not see deployment in new vehicles until 2017, given model development timelines.

Freescale S32V chip
Freescale built on its expertise in developing chips for radar-based adaptive cruise control for the S32V.. Freescale