What’s the Best Computing Architecture for the Autonomous Car?: Page 2 of 2

Davide Santo, director of the Autonomous Driving Lab for NXP Semiconductors, weighs in on the future of distributed and centralized electrical architectures.

you have to move radar data, so you’re moving gigabytes again. You end up having this huge amount of data that comes in at a high frequency rate, and it has to be processed. Your machine at the center is non-scalable, and when you don’t scale, you can’t offer capabilities for the long term, which will be needed in automotive.

DN: As we move closer to actual vehicle autonomy, is one or the other starting to emerge as a leader?

SANTO: It’s clear to me that there needs to be a centralized function for the planning phase – planning means path-finding, maneuvering and motion trajectory. It’s not the end-to-end (centralized architecture) that Nvidia wants to have. We’re still going to have to have intelligent sensors that can reduce the bandwidth and optimize the cost somewhere between the edge and the center.

DN: So you’re suggesting that the hybrid architecture is the future? Does NXP see this as the solution?

SANTO: In the future, we believe hybrid will be the path because there is always the need to process close to the sensor, whether it’s for cameras, or antennas for radar, or cloud point analysis. At the same time, there will always be a need for a centralized place where all the local maps will be brought together to complete the centralized model.

DN: What does that mean for the future of automotive sensors?

SANTO: The sensor will become a little less intelligent, but it will not be a stupid sensor. It will definitely keep on doing important operations.

It’s very naïve to think we can do everything centralized. There’s so much you can do to make the sensor better and more useful for Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 [autonomous] vehicles.

DN: Wouldn’t it be in the automaker’s best interest to go with a distributed system? That way, a lot of the development work could be offloaded to the suppliers.

SANTO: That’s exactly right. The question is, does the OEM want that? How does the OEM control a completely distributed system? They don’t. It puts them totally in the hands of the Tier One, with no chance of controlling it themselves.

The problem is it’s very difficult to control a distributed system. In order to make it work, you need to agree on languages, formats, protocols, and networking. It’s super tough. If the OEM could force their suppliers to do all that, they’d have a good life. But I doubt they can force all of the Tier Ones to do the same type of modeling, the same type of mapping, the same type of algorithms. The Tier Ones need to compete, and to do that, they have to offer differences.

DN: As we approach Level 5, will a standard be necessary?

SANTO: I hope for it. It happened in avionics. But for the automotive market, it’s going to be tougher. A little bit of agreement is needed, but it’s probably not feasible today.  



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