ARM has been working with car manufacturers since the late 1990s when automakers began to add computer chips to vehicles for functions like engine control and diagnostics.
The company said it was helping to create the Autonomous Vehicle Computing Consortium, or AVCC, along with the two automakers and industry suppliers Bosch, Denso and Continental AG. Also involved are Nvidia and NXP Semiconductors, both of which embed Arm’s technology into their chips.
With automakers and tech companies working on self-driving vehicles, analysts expect the number of chips in cars to expand. But the current test vehicles being used to develop self-driving software are using the same kind of broad, electricity-hungry chips found in data centres. Across the industry, chip firms and automakers agree that the power diet and size of the gear must be cut drastically to fit into cars for the general public, to perhaps a tenth or less the levels of current systems.
Chet Babla, ARM's vice president of automotive said he had just come back from the US and China and rode in four different types of autonomous vehicles. "They were great prototype platforms for proving the software, but when I asked to look at the electronics powering these vehicles, it was servers in the boot.”
The AVCC will be an independent group funded by membership fees from the companies that join. Arm officials said its work would be open to non-members.
The group’s first task will be to establish a common computing architecture. That effort aims to make it easier for car companies to write software that will work on chips from different vendors, similar to how Microsoft Windows-based software works on processors from Intel or AMD chips.
“The massive amount of technological innovation required to power self-driving vehicles at scale requires collaboration at an industry level”, Massimo Osella, chairman of the new group’s board and a lab group manager for research and development at GM, said in a statement.