Autonomous driving is one of the most important applications for semiconductors in the next five years. The artificial intelligent (AI) chip in the autonomous driving system is the most critical component and also a new opportunity for SoC designers. Driven by Tesla, many vendors have joined the race to design chips for autonomous driving over the past few years. Both start-up companies (such as Cruise) that are good at artificial intelligence algorithms and giant chip vendors (such as Google, NVIDIA, Intel) want to take this chance to demonstrate their capability. However, the production of autonomous driving chips also requires huge investment and needs the understanding of chip design and manufacturing, so the companies that specialize in both have a greater advantage.
Figure 1: Design process for autonomous driving chips
The camera is a critical sensor for autonomous driving systems. The images/videos taken by the camera must be processed by artificial intelligence chips to identify and interpret the environment around the vehicle and then make decisions. Examples like the LKA (Lane Keeping System) in level 2 systems, can detect line markings, and control the vehicle to automatically drive centrally in the lane without human intervention. The processing power of the chip and the associated algorithms will determine the ability of the car to drive autonomously.
The autonomous driving system above level 3, uses more sensors (such as cameras, lidars, and radars) to reconstruct the 3D model around the car. The system automatically takes the corresponding action based on instructions from the system. When combined with data from all other cars in a fleet, the collected information can be used to continuously improve the algorithms, with updates being pushed to all cars that use the same drive systems.
Thanks to the improvement of semiconductor manufacturing technology, 40nm technology has been widely used to produce automatic level 2 autonomous vehicle chips. In order to meet the high-speed demand for level 2 and above, mainstream autonomous vehicle chips are also moving below 7nm which will also bring improvements both in cost and performance. The number of units per system is expected to increase with autonomy level because of the requirement for system redundancy and higher performance.
Figure 2: Autonomous vehicle chips unit sales forecast
Source: Counterpoint, Updated in January 2020
Solutions from Major vendors
NVIDIA announced the next generation of self-driving car platform DRIVE AGX Orin at GTC China 2019. It delivers 200 TOPS performance, seven times that of the previous generation of Xavier. DRIVE AGX Orin is expected to begin mass production in 2022 on Samsung’s 8nm LPP process which will be quite mature in 2022. According to NVIDIA, the platform will use two DRIVE AGX Orin and two GPUs to achieve Level 5 autonomy. This solution can achieve 2000 TOPS, which is the highest of all solutions announced, but at the cost of 750W power consumption, enough to significantly dent the range of electric vehicles. NVIDIA is leading at computer vision, and it also believes level 5 can be achieved by using cameras as the principal sensor; although NVIDIA’s solution also supports lidar and other sensors.
Mobileye was acquired by Intel in March 2017 and is currently the company that sells the most autonomous driving chips. Mobileye launched the fifth-generation SoC “EyeQ5” for fully autonomous driving at CES 2018. EyeQ5 is expected to begin mass production on a 7nm process in 2021. EyeQ5 can achieve 24 TOPS at a power consumption of 10 W, supporting autonomous levels 4 and 5. Intel plans to combine EyeQ5 with the “Intel Atom” processor and develop its AI computing platform for autonomous driving. Although Mobileye is adamant that the camera can achieve full self-driving, EyeQ5 can also support radar and lidar. EyeQ5 can also perform sensor fusion to process the data from various sensors. Intel and Mobileye believe that two EyeQ5 SoCs and one Intel Atom processor are enough to achieve level 5 autonomous driving.
Following in NVIDIA’s and Intel’s (Mobileye) footsteps, Qualcomm has launched its solution for autonomous driving, Snapdragon Ride in CES 2020. Qualcomm has long been supplying solutions for infotainment but is now applying its capability to the autonomous vehicle systems. However, the deployment of the autonomous system requires long-term data collection, cooperation with Tier 1 suppliers, sensor company support, and data training capabilities. NVIDIA and Intel (Mobileye) have a head start. Qualcomm has a long way to go but we’re still early enough in the development of autonomous systems that most of the market is still to play for.
This is a summary of Counterpoint’s research for autonomous vehicles SoC solutions in 2020. Please contact Counterpoint Research for the detail.
Recent developments in autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been encouraging with numerous tests proving safety and reliability improvements. Tesla recently made bold claims – saying its cars would be capable of level 4/5 autonomy in 2020. How realistic is this and by when can we expect a significant rollout of autonomous cars?
Counterpoint Research predicts that, with the resolution of both the technological and regulatory issues, around 15% of new cars sold in 2030 will be fully autonomous (Level 4 to 5).
To make the vision of AVs a reality, OEMs, suppliers, and start-ups are applying cutting-edge technology to solve some of the biggest problems in computing, engineering, software development, and algorithm design today. However, it is regulatory and legal hurdles, rather than technological issues, that will prove to be the biggest barriers for self-driving technology.
Exhibit 1: ADAS Evolution in Automobile
Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) are progressively demonstrating the reality of vehicles taking over control from drivers and playing the crucial role of preparing regulators, consumers, and corporations for the possibilities that lay ahead.
ADAS introduction has demonstrated that the challenges holding back adoption of AVs are consumer awareness, pricing, and most significantly, issues in privacy, safety, and security.
Safety remains the critical and overriding component of ADAS technology. ADAS uses both visual and aural warnings if they suspect an accident is imminent. Advanced versions can now actively steer the vehicle away or activate brakes if drivers ignore the warnings. Driver assistance technologies available today include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning systems, autonomous emergency braking systems, and parking-assistance systems. Some vehicles also offer the option of blind-spot monitoring and rear crossing traffic alert to supplement the other assistance systems.
As technology evolves and becomes more cost-effective, design engineers are constantly updating their autonomous systems to include new and different types of sensors. Further adding to the complexity is the role cloud computing will eventually play as 5G radio technology is rolled out and finally offers the bandwidth requirements needed for the massive data streams coming off sensor systems.
Exhibit 2: Increasing Focus on Autonomous Vehicles and Safety
Regulatory hurdles holding back autonomous cars from becoming an everyday reality
However, the transition from human-driven to autonomous cars will not be seamless as it remains unclear how AVs fit into existing legal and regulatory frameworks around the world. Debates on how exactly the laws should, and will, handle the introduction of autonomous vehicles have differing and often contradictory conclusions. With existing legal frameworks proving to be inadequate, regulatory changes are urgently necessary to address a variety of barriers preventing the successful introduction of autonomous vehicles. As the reality of commercially available self-driving cars becomes more imminent, concerns about how the law—specifically tort law—will treat liability for autonomous vehicles has risen considerably.
Autonomous vehicles give rise to new liability and ethical issues
Assigning negligence forms the legal basis for liability in road accidents. Car owners, or the driver, are in the first instance liable for losses arising from accidents caused by their vehicles. Consequently, car owners are required to have, at a minimum, third-party liability insurance. Where an accident is a result of a fault or defect in the car, car owners/drivers will then look to the vehicle manufacturer or any of the component/service providers for recovery of any losses. States impose strict liability on producers of defective products for harm caused by those products. Inevitably, the introduction of autonomous vehicles adds another layer of complexity to attributing liability for car accidents. For example, the fact that you are operating a self-driving car, and chose not to override it before an incident, does it amount to negligence on the drivers part, the AI/software developer, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the component supplier?
The problem with autonomy in cars is that drivers will tend to over-rely on them. Tesla’s Autopilot, for example, does not have Level 3 autonomy, but Level 2, at best. The self-drive capability difference between Level 3 – when the car can take full control under certain circumstances – and Level 2 is significant. Tesla’s do not have particularly sophisticated sensors, and fatal crashes have already demonstrated that fact. At Level 3 autonomy, the driver is required to remain ready to take over control at a moment’s notice. Back in 2012, Google had tested Level 3 autonomy but found drivers were too trusting, and so decided not to take Level 3 to market at all, preferring instead to leapfrog towards developing full autonomous Level 5 vehicles, where no steering wheel or any other input is required. There appears to be an emerging consensus that Level 3 autonomy is a bad idea altogether. This means OEMs need to advance from Level 2, something that most leading OEMs have achieved, to at least Level 4. The technological challenges involved in such a jump are akin to progressing directly from powered flight to landing a man on the Moon.
So what does ‘Auto’ stand for again?
Tesla is making bold claims about its autonomous vehicle plans. At an investor event last month, Elon Musk revealed technical details of a new chip and computer for full self-driving capabilities that are already being built into Tesla cars. This is a key part of Tesla’s strategy to make autonomous cars mainstream. The company claims that the new chip will clear the way (subject to receiving regulatory approvals) to improve its software and neural networks to effectively operate its cars as fully autonomous vehicles. In such vehicles, which would be out as early as 2020, drivers would not need to touch the wheel. While it has not always been clear what Musk means when he refers to full self-driving, it is apparent that Tesla does not apply the standard definition of Level 4 or Level 5 autonomy.
Adding further to the debate is the first ever incident of a self-driving Uber car killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, in March 2018. The simple mundane everyday situation of a crosswalk, turn or intersection, is now presenting to be a much harder and broader ethical predicament, on how a car should decide between the lives of its passengers, and the lives of pedestrians.
Uncertain timeline to having fully autonomous vehicles
AVs adoption rate largely depends on resolving regulatory issues, as well as changing consumer opinions and overcoming significant technological and economic barriers. It also depends on what we mean by ‘autonomous’ – are we referring to entirely autonomous systems or systems that demonstrate some level of autonomy along with some degree of human intervention?
The chief differentiator of driver assisted and fully autonomous systems is the ability to focus away from safety concerns and towards freeing up the driver’s attention and time.
Innovations in the autonomous systems’ capabilities will develop quickly. Autonomy, in limited, predictable environments, such as freeway driving, will likely be available widely within the next five years. TuSimple that provides trucks that self-drive long distance freeway routes are almost ready for commercial launch. A human is in the cab ready to take control though.
Dual control is emerging as the interim half-way mark between ADAS and full autonomy – cars that blend a degree of autonomous control with human driver control. It is this degree of autonomous control that will gradually shift. The notion of a fully autonomous car, where the driver is hands and attention free for the entire journey is, in our view, much further away though.
How far ahead are autonomous vehicles?
Human drivers demonstrate decision making that’s still a long way ahead of an AVs current ability. Human drivers process and react to varying information quickly, making rapid decisions based on experience, judgment, and ethics. Further, humans cautiously negotiate roads occupied by other similarly unpredictable human drivers and improvise when confronted with unique situations. Current AVs may perform some of these tasks possibly faster and more consistently, but none can yet compare with a human across all situations.
In early 2018, GM introduced the Cruise AV – an autonomous hatchback, based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV, drawing significant attention with the absence of a steering wheel and pedals. While GM has not revealed any plans for a production run, it has been petitioning the American government for permission to test the model on public roads in 2019. Validating the significant role such autonomous cars can play in a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) automotive market in the future, Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund, a leading global large tech investor, invested US$2.2 billion in May 2018 for a 19.6% stake in GM’s autonomous driving business.
Exhibit 3: Key Firms With Permits to Test Self Driving Cars in California
The other key technology enabler to full autonomy will be the development of comprehensive data networks, comprising edge-based and cloud-based infrastructure. This will require the automotive industry working closely with other sectors, such as IT and telecoms industries, as well as public and industry policymakers, reaching agreements on a range of important issues, such as data center design and locations, enabling vehicles to communicate reliably and securely with their local environment.
On the face of it, while the future of AVs looks bright, the automotive industry is still a long way from manufacturing vehicles that can self-drive anywhere and everywhere under all conditions.
Every year in April, the beginning of a new fiscal year for the Indian Government as well as most Indian companies, automotive OEMs and component manufacturers in the country brace themselves for change in regulations. This year they have the added responsibility of complying with a whole new set of specific safety norms to prevent fatal and severe road accidents.
Indian roads are known to be one of the most dangerous in the world. While statistics for 2018 are still awaited, in 2017, road accidents claimed 147,913 lives and left 470,975 people severely injured. However, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), official figures capture only half of the total road fatalities. For example, in 2016, while India reported 150,785 road fatalities, WHO estimates 299,091 people lost their lives in road accidents. WHO’s figures translate to 23 out of every 100,000 people losing their lives in road accidents.
The combination of new regulations and the Global New Car Assessment Program’s (NCAP) ‘Safer Cars for India’ project is raising consumer demand for critical safety features such as airbags, and acting as an impetus for enhanced safety by Indian automakers.
Let’s have a look at the safety features that passenger car and two-wheeler consumers can expect as a standard fitment throughout FY2020: –
April 2019: Compulsory fitment of ABS/CBS for 2W and ABS for Cars.
As per latest regulations, in effect from April 2019, all new two-wheelers with an engine displacement over 125cc, are to be equipped with Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS), a feature that prevents wheels from locking up, even with hard braking. Smaller displacement models, with engines <=125cc, will be compulsorily fitted with a Combi-Braking System (CBS), enabling both brakes with a single lever. While the mandate was already applicable for all new two-wheelers introduced after April 1, 2018, it now extends to all existing models too in the market. In readiness to comply with these norms, most Indian two-wheeler manufacturers had already begun upgrading existing bikes with either single or dual-channel ABS. Bosch, Continental, and Endurance are key players in this race. Similarly, for all new cars launched from April 2018, fitment of ABS was compulsory. The latest mandate is now applicable for all cars on sale, including existing models, from April 2019.
July 2019: All new cars sold in India, must feature a driver-side airbag, a speed warning alarm, seatbelt reminder alarms for both driver and co-driver, and rear parking sensors as standard fitment.
As widely acknowledged, airbags, in combination with front seat belts, significantly reduce driver and front passenger injury in the event of head-on collisions. The driver-side airbag will be a mandatory fitment on all cars produced from July 2019. Along with the stronger structures required to meet new crash test norms, an airbag will drastically reduce injuries sustained in the event of a frontal collision. While the norms mandate only a driver-side airbag, dual airbags, which provide enhanced protection to the front-seat occupant as well, are presently offered as standard equipment, in mid to premium level models by most OEMs in the country. At an average US$130-US$150 per airbag unit, Counterpoint Research estimates the mandatory fitment offers a potential business opportunity of US$350 to US$400 million annually in the country. Currently, leading vendors of airbags for passenger vehicles include Autoliv, KSS Abhishek Safety Systems, Rane TRW, and UNO Minda-Toyoda Gosei. Denso and Bosch are both key suppliers of the airbag control units and electronic components required in these modules.
A Driver and co-driver seat-belt reminder alarm will be yet another audio warning. It will be active until both the driver and the front passenger are belted up. The three-point front seat belts, which are passive safety supports, need to be buckled for airbags to be effective.
The proposed speed warning system is mandated to beep an alert every 60 seconds when the car is running at above 80kph, and continuously sound at speeds above 120kph. The system cannot be overridden or turned off and is intended to discourage over-speeding, a root cause of most road accidents.
Also to be standard on all cars, are reverse sensors. These sensors activate when the reverse gear is engaged, providing at least an audio warning of the objects in the path of the vehicle. In some vehicles, the advanced features offer an audio-visual warning system. Parking sensors can help prevent injury to children or collision with low objects, that are not visible by the car’s side and rear-view mirrors. While most premium vehicles come equipped with reverse parking sensors or reversing cameras as part of their standard equipment, reverse sensors are limited to a select few models in the budget segments currently.
Cars with central door locking will now, by law, require a manual override switch. Also, for public transport vehicles, rear-door child locks cannot be fitted. This is an unfortunate outcome of incidents in which the feature, which allows rear-doors to be opened only from the outside, were intentionally engaged to trap passengers.
OCTOBER 2019: Crash test norms compliance
More stringent requirements for full and offset frontal and lateral/side collision impacts have been in force on all cars launched after October 1, 2017. The latest requirements further expand the scope to all models on sale in India from October 1, 2019. As per these new crash-test standards, vehicles will undergo tests for full-frontal impact at 48KPH, offset-frontal impact with a fixed deformable barrier at 56KPH, and side impact with a mobile deformable barrier at 50KPH. As a result, most OEMs in India are having to re-engineer or phase out older models to comply with the new standards. In effect, with these new crash test compliance requirements, 2019 will be the end of the road for many older models.
With the current slowdown in automotive sales in the country and sentiments remaining subdued, it will be difficult to pass on the full cost increases of these added features to end consumers. Research on preferences of Indian customers has demonstrated a preference for added convenience/accessory features over safety equipment. Raising consumer awareness on the benefits and utility of safety features will be critical for customers appreciating such features rather than balking at their costs. Supported by active campaigns, consumers are indeed growing more conscious about the benefits of essential features of safety, such as airbags and ABS. With these safety features being applicable for future electric vehicles too, suppliers can surely look to strategically scale up to reduce their costs.
With the safety quotient in both passenger cars and two-wheelers set to rise from these regulations, India should see safer vehicles and hopefully, far fewer fatalities than years before. A significant opportunity is available for suppliers. However, they have to ensure their capacity and resources are in place to deliver on both quantity and schedule, to realize the economic potential that the new safety regulations offer.
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