In our ongoing series about autonomous vehicles, this week we will step back and describe the three distinct areas of compute that have and are emerging in modern vehicles. The three areas are: microcontrollers, infotainment and autonomy.
Microcontroller based compute is the oldest of the three and has been around almost as long as semiconductors have been manufactured at scale. There are a variety of different microcontrollers in a modern vehicle, to handle different discreet functions such as power doors, in-car lighting, automatic transmission, braking etc. These well understood and relatively inexpensive parts are produced in large volume every year by well-known suppliers such as ST Microelectronics, Infineon, NXP and TI.
Infotainment compute is relatively new but has been around for a few decades in various forms. Modern infotainment in cars is quite sophisticated and usually centered around a display that handles entertainment (e.g., satellite radio), navigation/GPS and other standard controls such as heating and AC.
Finally, there is autonomous compute which as we have been discussing has to handle AI, neural networks and high-speed sensor data from various and sundry devices. This must all be correlated in real-time to make split second driving decisions. This area of compute will definitely evolve the most over the coming years.