Freescale makes self-driving cars more smarter


With all the talks of co-piloted and autonomous vehicles, one question stands out. If cars gradually are taking over more of our driving chores, can they do so safely and error-free? After all, the dark side of this rise-of-the-machines scenario is a rogue vehicle that catastrophically misreads the data flooding its sensors. Freescale is announcing a processor today that it hopes will be useful in self-driving cars. The big automobile chip maker hopes that its S32V Vision Processor will help steer the auto industry to the first crass-less car.

Freescale self-driving cars

Freescale Semiconductor (FSL) aims to raise the bar on the quality of chips used in increasingly sentient vehicles. On Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Austin-based company, which spun out of Motorola in 2004 and is focusing on the booming Internet of Things space, announced a new S32V vision microprocessor. The company describes it as “the first automotive vision system-on-chip with the requisite reliability, safety and security measures to automate and ‘co-pilot’ a self-aware car.”

Simply put, it means that Freescale’s new chip will to help automakers pack a new level of autonomy into future models that will require less of drivers by upping the processing power and reducing the error-rate from its onboard computer systems.

Ray Cornyn, vice president of automotive engineering for microcontrollers at Freescale, said in an interview with VentureBeat that autonomous cars will be a major step forward in safety, once the engineers get it right. The first steps are going to be driver-assist technologies, such as pedestrian alerts, safety braking, and lane-departure correction. At some point, when those technologies are perfected, the car will be in a better position to drive itself.

Such cars are a boon to the mankind for it would reduce auto fatalities to a great extent, claims Freescale’s vice president and general manager of microcontrollers, Matt Johnson. He also says around 90% of auto fatalities are due to human error.

Cornyn said Freescale expects to ship the chip in July in small samples. It will maybe take another year to design into products, and another year before it appears in vehicles. So sometime in 2017 is perhaps the earliest when cars using the chip will appear in the market.