Xilinx’s programmable AI chip powers safety sensors in Subaru car

Xilinx shared today that its programmable AI chips are being used in Subaru’s EyeSight car safety system. Integrated into the Subaru Levorg, a mid-size car debuting soon in Japan, EyeSight will provide advanced features including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and pre-collision braking.

“It’s the first vehicle with a new generation of EyeSight,” Xilinx automotive lead Willard Tu said in an interview with VentureBeat. “The most difficult part of this is the AI portion and support for it.”

The name of the chip is a mouthful: the Xilinx Automotive-qualified Zynq UltraScale+ multi-processor system-on-a-chip (MPSoC). But you can call it Zynq. Zynq is a programmable chip that helps power EyeSight, the advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) in the car. Such systems use sensors to take over when the driver is doing something unsafe or is falling asleep.

The Zynq uses 16-nanometer manufacturing technology to deliver high performance, ultra-low latency, and functional safety capabilities that the EyeSight system requires to accurately sense and react to dynamic driving scenarios. The chip handles tasks like AI, signal processing, and visual processing for cameras that have a wider field of view than in past vehicles.

Xilinx has been making automotive chips for over 20 years. It has shipped more than 190 million devices globally for automotive use, with 75 million used for safety at over 200 automotive companies. But chips like the Zynq are a lot smarter, and they’re getting us closer to self-driving cars.

Tu said the carmaker decided around four years ago to use the Zynq programmable chip. Automotive designers use these kinds of chips because they can be programmed at the very last minute to handle specific hardware functions. Cars take a long time to design, but they need to avoid obsolete technology. So Xilinx helps carmakers load the final software and hardware into the chip just before the car ships, Tu said.

The Zynq chip is part of an existing family of automotive chips, and Xilinx is working on a new generation now, dubbed Advanced Acceleration Compute Platform, which uses 7-nanometer manufacturing. Those chips will likely show up in cars a few years from now.

The new Subaru has new safety features such as active lane change assist, where the car automatically shifts out of a lane to go around a vehicle. It also has auto deceleration based on how fast you should go around a curve, as well as alerts for driving in congested traffic.

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