HomeAutonomous VehiclesArm intros reference architecture to help automakers grasp ‘software-defined future’

Arm intros reference architecture to help automakers grasp ‘software-defined future’

UK-based chip design company Arm has announced new software architecture and hardware platforms for emerging software-defined automotive systems, including for driver assistance, infotainment, electrified powertrains, and ultimately for autonomous vehicles. The new releases are designed to enable the automotive industry to build powerful new automotive software in the cloud which can be scaled easily into edge-based automotive systems.

The new releases include a software architecture and reference implementation, under the name SOAFEE (Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge), which builds on Arm’s Project Cassini and SystemReady work to enable a “standards-based cloud-native experience” at the edge. The new architecture enables cloud concepts like real-time container orchestration with automotive functional safety – a “first in the industry”, said Arm. 

An initial version is available now. Arm has worked with US hyper-scaler AWS, German auto parts maker Continental, and Volkswagen-owned software outfit CARIAD on the SOAFEE release. Alongside, it has combined with US-based edge compute and cloud analytics specialists ADLink and Ampere to issue two reference hardware platforms for automotive workload exploration and testing on high-end silicon, ahead of broader commercialization. 

These comprise a scalable 32-core AVA compute system for lab-based development and an 80-core AVA-AP1 platform for in-vehicle prototyping and testing. The pair will accelerate time-to-market and workload development with the SOAFEE stack for cockpit controls, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), electric powertrain, and autonomous driving, it said. Both platforms are available for pre-order, with general availability late in 2021. 

Arm noted new automotive systems invariably require more powerful software, built in the cloud and deployed at the edge, in vehicles themselves, which can be easily deployed and scaled by automakers. This, in turn, requires more complex code, and more advanced software programming. SOAFEE, it said, is a collaboration between the automotive sector and tech industry to define a new open-standards architecture for software-defined vehicles.

A special interest group (SIG) comprising the various parties engaged with Arm on the release, has issued a free implementation of the SOAFEE architecture to allow for broad prototyping, workload exploration, and early development. The company said the new software and hardware framework will have applicability in other applications including robotics in application areas such as medicine, manufacturing, and logistics. 

Arm said: “To meet these evolving consumer demands, computing must become more centralized, and software is increasingly critical to allowing this. The resulting changes to how software is being developed, deployed, and managed means that cloud-native development, best known for driving reductions in cost, time and complexity across the cloud infrastructure industry, is more applicable to automotive development than ever before.

“However, to address the software-defined needs of cars today quickly and seamlessly, it is imperative to deliver a standardized framework that enhances proven cloud-native technologies that work at scale with the real-time and safety features required in automotive applications. This same framework can also benefit other real-time and safety-critical use cases such as robotics and industrial automation.”

Chet Babla, vice president of automotive and IoT at Arm, said: “The automotive sector is at a critical inflection point and the supply chain – from IP design to carmakers – is being re-examined and redefined. The industry has asked… to accelerate… a software-defined future… We’re leading a collaborative effort [to deliver] the standards, software, developer resources, and processing platforms… for the safety and real-time needs of automotive applications.”

Bill Foy, director of worldwide automotive business development at AWS, said: “Major tech leaps are transforming vehicle electronics and software-architecture requirements, and driving the industry to a software-centric future. We’re committed to… help solve complex challenges for delivering software-defined vehicles with a service-oriented architecture… We can bring cost savings, and make it possible to run applications on the same architecture in the cloud and at the automotive edge to simplify developer workflow.”

Riclef Schmidt-Clausen, senior vice president at CARIAD, said: “The software-defined car is coming… But the industry faces macro challenges… [including] software portability across a wide range of hardware platforms and… cloud-native software… to ensure seamless deployment of applications developed in the cloud to a heterogeneous edge platform. As the pioneers of this new evolution, CARIAD and Arm are working closely together to solve key technical challenges and lay a strong foundation for the software-defined future.” 

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