Cars get ARM cam­era chip

ARM’s Mali C71 im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sor will help cars see ob­struc­tions. Agam Shah re­ports

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

Cars are turn­ing into com­put­ers with a unique set of re­quire­ments. One of the more im­por­tant com­po­nents is a cam­era, which is a sec­ondary fea­ture in PCs. Cam­eras are aid­ing mir­rors in al­low­ing cars to self park, and they will serve as the eyes for au­ton­o­mous cars, help­ing cap­ture and an­a­lyse images.

The num­ber of cam­eras on cars will only grow as driv­ers seek a bet­ter view of the ve­hi­cle’s in­te­ri­ors and ex­te­ri­ors. For car mak­ers, the next big goal is to bring con­text and un­der­stand­ing to those images. Com­bined with data from radar, li­dar, GPS, and other sen­sors, cam­eras can help cars and driv­ers make bet­ter de­ci­sions.

ARM has come up with a spe­cialised cam­era chip for cars, with the goal of bring­ing con­text to images and im­prov­ing driver and pas­sen­ger safety. The Mali-C71 im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sor will an­a­lyse ev­ery pixel from cam­eras on­board a car, and much like a hu­man eye, read the im­age, and help make driv­ing de­ci­sions.

For ex­am­ple, to­day’s cars are not good at iden­ti­fy­ing a per­son in view of the rear cam­eras when they are park­ing them­selves. ARM’s chip will be able to iden­tify a per­son and stop the car. That’s just the start – the chip will help iden­tify peo­ple cross­ing the street as well as traf­fic sig­nals and driv­ing lanes in dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions.

The chip could also iden­tify weather con­di­tions, pos­si­bly with the help of in­for­ma­tion from GPS. That could help nav­i­gate safely through rough road con­di­tions. A cam­era in­side a car could also iden­tify a drowsy driver and is­sue an alert.

A sim­i­lar func­tion could be per­formed by GPUs from com­pa­nies like Nvidia that are tar­get­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles. But the ARM-based chips will be more power ef­fi­cient, while GPUs are con­sid­ered use­ful for more fu­tur­is­tic self-driv­ing cars and may draw more power. To­day’s cars don’t need full-blown GPUs for tasks like self park­ing.

The num­ber of cam­eras in each car could ex­ceed 10 in the com­ing years, and the re­liance on them will only in­crease as cars go in­creas­ingly au­ton­o­mous. The Mali-C71 sup­ports up to four cam­eras in real-time. A car could have mul­ti­ple Mali-C71s, and ve­hi­cles with the cam­eras in­stalled could start ap­pear­ing as early as next year.

The Mali-C71 is aimed at cars with driv­ers at the wheel, though it has fea­tures that could be used in au­ton­o­mous cars. It can sup­port images in a 4096x4096-pixel range. Im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sors aren’t new and ex­ist on mo­bile chips even to­day. But the Mali-C71 is dif­fer­ent be­cause of mul­ti­ple re­li­a­bil­ity fea­tures to en­sure pix­els are re­li­ably tagged and to en­sure there are no data er­rors. A small er­ror could mean an accident. The chip in­cludes the fea­tures, im­age qual­ity, and safety el­e­ments to be ap­pro­pri­ately used in sys­tems in­clud­ing sim­ple backup cam­eras, multi-cam­era park­ing-as­sist sys­tems, and even fully au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, an ARM spokes­woman said.

It can be used with ARM or other ar­chi­tec­tures, the spokes­woman said. Chips based on the ARM, x86, Power and MIPS ar­chi­tec­tures are all vy­ing for a spot in cars. So are spe­cialised ASICs, real-time chips and FPGAs (field pro­gram­mable gate ar­rays).

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