Advancing Toward Collision-Free Cars
When choosing a new car, today’s buyers focus as much on safety features as on traditional considerations such as performance, suitability, mileage, and style. Although passive safety devices—such as seatbelts and airbags—remain essential, they are also increasingly recognizing the importance of advances in active safety technologies that significantly reduce the possibility and consequences of accidents. They especially value innovations that, in the ideal case, can prevent accidents entirely by eliminating blind spots that limit drivers’ situational awareness.
The popularity of the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) functions now available as options on high-end cars is encouraging automakers to move such systems downward into mainstream models. An increasing number of new vehicles are being equipped with basic ADAS features such as radar- and camera-based functions that automatically detect obstacles and induce braking. Buyer enthusiasm for active safety technology has boosted vehicle sales.
Currently, automotive manufacturers are beginning to provide onboard capabilities for tracking preceding cars on expressways and other specially modified roadways. Beyond that, tremendous engineering resources are being invested to produce electronic safety systems with threat-detection and avoidance functions that make possible “collision-free cars” (see Figure 1).
Progression of ADAS Capabilities
Initially, active safety features for reducing accidents concentrated on electronically monitoring the area in front of the car (collision detection/avoidance) and within the driving lane (lane departure warnings). The area being scanned has steadily expanded. Not long ago, rearview-parking assistance was a novel safety feature. Today, some automakers offer full surround safety monitoring for not just parking but also for low-speed driving. Newer systems in some cars provide alerts for pedestrians and other vehicles. They deliver better nighttime performance, too.
Drivers are benefiting significantly as onboard electronic systems with advanced safety capabilities help them successfully negotiate dangerous situations. As a result, there is considerable public and industry interest in the benefits and application possibilities of surround-type ADAS installations.
To produce a surround view, the system stitches together images from cameras mounted on all four sides of the car. Drivers are already using these views to help negotiate various driving challenges. At Renesas, we are now working at adding greater functionality to these systems—such as higher resolutions, and real-time recognition and monitoring of nearby cars, pedestrians, and obstacles. Our near-term goal is to implement a Surround Monitoring System to serve as an effective ADAS.
In particular, automotive industry customers often express concern about three issues regarding surround-type ADAS designs:
- The system’s computational load grows exponentially with every attempt to widen the sensing range, boost detection precision, and execute more powerful control algorithms (see Figure 2). Therefore, engineering teams need solutions for incorporating high computing power into safety equipment that also must achieve low-power operation, high reliability, and high quality.
- Application code remains the most important factor in overall system development. Its design has major impacts on cost and schedules. As a result, our customers have an urgent need for further increases in software development efficiency.
- Multi-camera systems require high bandwidth and synchronous camera operation—capabilities that mandate high-speed onboard car networks. In particular, system designers are seeking ADAS solutions that support Ethernet AVB (audio-video bridging), the platform whose advantages currently make it the top choice for next-generation ADAS designs.
R-Car V2H SoC: Key to Effective ADAS Designs
Renesas sees these three ADAS development concerns, among others, as opportunities to contribute to progress in automotive technology around the globe. The key component in meeting that goal is the R-Car V2H system-on-a-chip device: an ADAS-ready, increased-capability device in our popular R-Car series SoC products. This low-power, high-performance single-chip design solution incorporates an Arm® Cortex®-A15 dual-core CPU, a PowerVR SGX531 GPU, and a Renesas IMP-X4 image-recognition processor.
The V2H SoC runs at speeds up to 1.0 GHz and provides 7,000 DMIPS performance. It delivers enough computing power to implement a full surround view from four cameras, with each camera also providing independent monitoring of pedestrians, yet the chip consumes less than 2W.
A Ready-to-Use HW/SW Surround-Monitoring Solution
To accelerate and simplify the development of ADAS features for cars and trucks, Renesas is offering a ready-to-use, R-Car V2H-based system solution that combines hardware and software optimized for delivering functional safety. The hardware includes ECC (error correction code) memory along with other functions essential for the development of safety-related onboard systems. Software for the ADAS solution runs on the highly reliable Integrity® real-time operating system (RTOS) and includes a corresponding board support package (BSP).
To help automotive engineers overcome the traditional difficulty of using high-level languages to write code for image-recognition cores and other hardware processing sections, the R-Car V2H ADAS solution incorporates a library of functions for the IMP-X4 image processor that can be called directly from C or other HLLs. This makes it possible to write effective application code without having to know the details of the system’s image-recognition accelerator hardware.
The image-recognition library for the on-chip IMP-X4 processor fully supports the OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision) image-recognition package software. This further helps customers maximize their software development efficiency when developing code for R-Car V2H-based ADAS designs.
Importantly, because the Renesas R-Car V2H SoC device already includes Ethernet AVB interface capability—the emerging platform for high-resolution camera transmission—this Renesas ADAS solution is fully capable of implementing next-generation onboard car systems. Ethernet AVB technology permits high-speed digital signal transmission via inexpensive wiring; so R-Car V2H-based ADAS equipment can reduce both vehicle weight and cost.
The video clip below highlights a demonstration of a Renesas surround-monitoring system that applies the R-Car V2H chip and its software. The ADAS system shown stitches together an overhead view using images obtained from four cameras mounted at each corner of the car. However, instead of using the analog cameras found in most contemporary surround-view systems, this demo system uses megapixel digital cameras. Such cameras offer much higher resolution than analog models. And since they don’t exhibit color-bleeding distortions, they deliver far better overall visibility.
A notable feature of the R-Car V2H-based ADAS demo system is its ability to detect the presence of pedestrians near the vehicle. The SoC’s built-in graphics engine clearly displays images of nearby pedestrians that the driver might otherwise fail to notice. Thus, this advanced demo system delivers true situation monitoring, as opposed to simple viewing. On the road, it would enable a safer driving experience.
ADAS Systems of Tomorrow, and the Day After
Renesas continues to develop and enhance next-generation ADAS solutions, and our application engineers are focused on delivering higher levels of safety and reliability. As previously discussed, our current ADAS implementations are already capable of surround monitoring and pedestrian recognition. In the next generation solution that’s now in development, we plan to add support for collision prevention and automatic driving on specially designed roadways. For the generation of ADAS solutions beyond that, we aim to enable automakers to build collision-free cars capable of automatic driving on everyday roads (see Figure 3).
To maximize the service we supply to automotive customers in countries around the world, Renesas will continue to invest in and leverage our powerful electronic technologies and application expertise, while extending our proven performance record and marketing successes. Our ongoing corporate objective is to deliver breakthrough ADAS electronics that make driving ever safer, despite increased traffic congestion.