Automakers and the entire vehicle industry are now leveraging software like never before. Electronic Control Units (ECUs) within vehicles are increasingly dependent on software. Not only does software solve the mentioned challenges, but it also creates new opportunities.

This article propose ATS-6000— a purpose-built ECU platform with a Dual Intel Xeon Scalable Processor to help the vehicle industry jump from a limited “hardware-based” to a software-defined and programmable ECU. This processor is enabled for AI and automation. It allows vehicles to evolve into a software-defined autonomous vehicles.

Challenges with the current vehicle model.

Electronic Control Units (ECUs) are vital to modern vehicles as they control one or various electrical systems. At their core, ECUs are simple microcontrollers running with embedded software and communicating with each other via the internal network known as CAN (Controller Area Network). ECUs provide safety, comfort, and driver’s assistance.

This CAN-networked Electronic Control Unit (ECU) model has been successfully delivering what drivers and passengers have always needed- safety, comfort, and assistance. And although it has been considered a premium-only vehicle model, it is now considered a de-facto standard within the automobile industry.

But still, this model presents quite a few challenges. First, this model is too closed (vehicle-centric) and static. In addition, the traditional fixed-function ECU is also prone to data flow bottlenecks and is only connected “at times.” In other words, this CAN- ECU model lacks new technology’s openness and flexibility. Plus, without the proper security measures, its CAN-bus interfaces could be hacked by more advanced tech.

But now, ECUs are evolving and becoming more dependent on software. Not only the vehicle industry can solve these aforementioned ECU challenges, but it can also create new opportunities— all via software.

Introducing software into the equation.

Software is slowly shaping the entire vehicle industry. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), automakers, and suppliers are increasingly turning to software to cover the now mandatory: safety, comfort, and assistance features.

In addition, allowing software to take a more critical role in a vehicle's functionality enables the industry to address the new trends, including hyper-connectivity, automation, and customization features. All such benefits entail new business models and collaborations for the entire vehicle industry.

As an example, the software is helping the vehicle industry shape the customer's experience to a much larger degree; and, in some cases, even change the vehicle's specification entirely. With software, new vehicle features can be activated according to a driver's requests and needs. The software can also help collect vehicle data and communicate it to the cloud to enhance the current vehicle features and services.

Today's premium vehicles might have millions of lines of software code distributed across their multiple ECUs and an extensive collection of input devices, including sensors, cameras, LIDAR, and RADAR— all using the CAN bus.

The Software-defined Autonomous Vehicle.

As mentioned in the previous section, introducing software into the ECU enables new in-vehicle functions and experiences— something that was never possible with hardware-based equipment. This new vehicle relaying on software is now referred to as the Software-defined Vehicle (SDV).

The SDV concept is a significant evolution from the well-known traditional hardware-based automobile to a "software-centric device running on top of four wheels." The SDV also helps introduce more intelligent capabilities, pushing the vehicle's driving assistance to full autonomation.

But still, introducing automation is a significant step into the evolution of vehicles and brings a whole new plethora of challenges. Autonomous workloads require real-time capabilities and functional safety.

For instance, one of the most significant challenges in autonomous driving is the safety of the passengers and other surrounding traffic individuals. With an autonomous vehicle, the right 'targeted' actions "in real-time" must be taken to get the vehicle to safety.

Bringing more power to the vehicle with a purpose-built ECU platform

The autonomous vehicle industry is starting to change to a more open network, software-defined (programmed as a vehicle), and connected model. These qualities make an ECU more flexible and connected to everything else (Vehicle to Everything - V2X).

But as ECUs become more software-based and help introduce automation into the vehicle, they require more capacity to serve real-time workloads and functional safety. A purpose-built ECU platform with suitable power and performance can help accelerate automation workloads within a vehicle.

The Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processor for Autonomous Driving system.

Intel introduced their Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors as highly flexible platforms designed to bring AI anywhere (from the edge to the cloud). These processors are optimized for cloud, enterprise HPC, network, security, and IoT workloads. Processors built-in for AI performance are the best for self-driving or autonomous vehicle applications.

Lanner introduces a purpose-built ECU platform powered by the Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processor. The ATS-6000 is built for higher throughputs, built-in crypto acceleration, and exceptional NIC module expansion. Empowered by the latest Intel Xeon Scalable Processor, the ATS-6000 brings the proper performance to the vehicle at scale to allow AI and automation.

The ATS-6000 is adapted to run as a vehicle’s ECU platform. This board has the following features:

  • Dual Intel® Xeon® CPU (Sapphire Rapids) compute platform
  • Intel Atom CPU (Denverton-AD) ADAS platform
  • DDR5 memory down design
  • Automotive-grade MCU with ASIL D and vehicle network interface
  • High bandwidth PCIe 5.0 for GPU/FPGA support
  • Liquid cooling design compatible

Next Steps.

For more information on the software-defined autonomous vehicle or the purpose-built ECU platform powered by the Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processor for Autonomous Driving system, please contact Lanner’s sales representative.