ARM's New AE Chips for Autonomous Driving: Everything You Need to Know

In an industry-first move, ARM has unveiled its groundbreaking Automotive Enhanced (AE) processors, setting a new benchmark for AI-driven vehicles. The Hashlist team took a look at why the launch could mark a significant leap in the automotive sector's capabilities in development speed and performance.

William Engblom

The following is a concise guide to what you need to know about this game-changing technology and the reasons behind ARM's strategic move

What is ARM?

ARM is a British technology company known for designing and licensing microprocessor technology and architectures widely used in digital electronic devices. ARM widely known for its energy-efficient processor designs, and technology that is integral to a vast array of products, from smartphones and tablets to embedded IoT devices and automotive systems. 

Unlike traditional semiconductor companies that manufacture chips, ARM develops the intellectual property for ARM-based chips, which are then licensed to manufacturers and partners. 

ARM's chip architecture is widely recognized as the standard in the industry (eg, its architecture is used in over 90% of smartphone chips worldwide).

An Overview: ARM's New Automotive Chips

ARM's just introduced Automotive Enhanced (AE) processors, which use the advanced Armv9 architecture and server-class performance to the automotive industry for the first time. 

This suite of processors is designed to address the increasing complexity of vehicle electronics, propelled by the surge in autonomy, advanced user experiences, and the shift towards electrification & software-defined vehicles (SDVs). The new chips are:

  • Arm Neoverse V3AE: Brings server-class performance to automotive, ideal for AI-accelerated autonomous driving and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
  • Arm Cortex-A720AE and Cortex-A520AE: These processors offer better sustained performance and power efficiency, respectively, tailored for a wide spectrum of SDV applications.
  • Arm Cortex-R82AE: Sets a new standard for real-time processing with its 64-bit computing capability, ensuring functional safety.
  • Arm Mali-C720AE: A highly configurable Image Signal Processor (ISP), optimized for demanding computer and human vision tasks.

Why ARM Made a Big Bet on Automotive

There are two main reasons for ARM joining the shift into Automotive:

  1. The unprecedented current transformation of automotive: The push for more autonomous features, sophisticated user experiences, and electrification demands a new approach to vehicle electronics and software development. ARM's strategic move to introduce these advanced processors and virtual prototyping solutions aims to address these challenges head-on. By offering server-class performance and enhanced AI capabilities, ARM is enabling the industry to leapfrog development cycles, thereby accelerating the transition to software-defined vehicles.

  1. A slowdown in smartphone chip demand: The smartphone market, after years of explosive growth, has begun showing signs of market maturation. With longer replacement cycles and a saturation in major markets, the demand for smartphone chips has plateaued, and ARM is exploring a new vertical

How ARM aims to speed up the automotive development cycle by releasing the chips in a virtual environment first.

Traditionally, automotive chip development cycles are linear, starting with getting processor IP delivered, then developing the silicon, and finally, when the hardware becomes available, starting the software development.

However, with this chip, ARM allows automakers to start software development through a virtual prototyping environment immediately. This significantly cuts down the cycle time to get the first vehicles to the market with the chip integrated since the software can be developed in parallel with the hardware.

What talent requirements does the new ARM’s AE processors bring?

Major automakers have already begun competing for the best software talent to develop for ARM’s AE processors.

Engineers with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and real-time processing are highly sought after to leverage the processors' capabilities for autonomous driving and ADAS systems. Additionally, skills in cybersecurity and virtualization are critical due to the enhanced security and virtualization features of the Armv9 architecture. 

Software developers with experience in embedded systems and automotive software standards will also play an essential role in integrating these chips into next-generation vehicles.

Accelerating the Future of SDVs

ARM's latest advancements are not just about enhancing the capabilities of autonomous vehicles. They represent a fundamental shift in how the automotive industry approaches development. By reducing development time and costs while providing unparalleled flexibility and performance, ARM is setting a new standard for automotive innovation.

The stage is set for an exciting era of even faster development of SDVs.