NXP Outlines Autonomous Vehicle Advances

February 01, 2016 // By Steve Ohr
NXP Semiconductors has been working with Google on self-driving cars and has interesting progress to report. Speaking in the plenary session of the 63rd International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), held here, officials said facsimiles of self-driving cars — “robots with wheels” — are already on the road.

High-end vehicles can now speed down highways at up to 130 mph with minimal driver attention, said Lars Reger, chief technology officer of NXP’s automotive group based in Hamburg, Germany. Traffic laws are also evolving to reflect the possibility that self-driving cars can actually reduce the number of automotive fatalities.
Using sensor-laden vehicles, Google has already pre-scanned radar maps for routes a self-driving vehicle are likely to take, Reger explained. This enables self-driving vehicles to function as if they were on a track -- not confronting a new pattern every time the car is driven, but rather tuning itself just to the unmapped variations. Since most highways have a common logic to their layout, up to 90% of a home-to-work journey could be pre-scanned. The last several kilometers may need intensified driver attention.

Automotive sensor hardware for self-driving cars follows similar topology as Internet of Things (IoT) hardware. A microcontroller effectively monitors how the car is performing, Reger said, and dispenses “driving advice.” This can get quite complicated: the Mercedes S-Class sedan, for example, has roughly 150 controllers. As a major microcontroller vendor, NXP stands to gain a great deal from proliferation of MCUs in future vehicles.