For decades, manufacturers have added new features by adding more ECUs to the vehicle and connecting them to the gateway over CAN and LIN networks. More than 100 of these modules are currently crammed throughout the car to manage the windows, steering, signals and other domains—all of which are spewing out data. These devices are connected by vast lengths of cabling crammed in the dashboard, behind the doors, and under the floor.
But car manufacturers are now trying to condense all these isolated electronic devices into 10 to 20 supercomputers that are spread on the corners of the car and act as gateways, sharing data over Gigabit Ethernet networks. That would serve to cut down on all the costly cable harnesses in cars, NXP said. The microcontrollers in each box would be replaced by microprocessors that can be reprogrammed to roll out new features to the car over time.
"They want to move to a more central compute architecture," Carlson said.
NXP is trying to bridge the gap between present and future electronic architectures in cars. The S32G is part of the company's S32 platform, which is based on a common architecture so that customers can swap out software from one generation of cars to another and reuse up to 90% of research and development work. The point of the S32 platform is to curb costs and roll out safer, more "software upgradable" cars to the mass market faster than ever.
The chip incorporates 20 CAN interfaces, up from 8 in its current generation of networking chips for cars. The chip also has 4 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, up from 100 Mbps Ethernet in its current range of gateway processors. It supports the highest standard of functional safety for electronics embedded in cars, ASIL-D, up from ASIL-C in its previous generation. NXP said it has started supplyingthe new networking chip to early customers, including Audi.
The chip also has network accelerators for Gigabit Ethernet as well as CAN, LIN, FlexRay and other legacy vehicle networking standards. Without acceleration, the chip would be bogged down by sending and securing data around the car, NXP said. The communications engine "offloads" most of that workload so that the Cortex-M and Cortex-A cores can be used for other services in the car, including over the air (OTA) updates and patches from the cloud.