ARM reveals Cortex-R52 chip for self-driving cars and robots

Real-time processor features enhanced safety to safeguard against slip-ups

ARM has announced the Cortex-R52 processor that has been specifically designed to be safer, making it perfect for use in applications such as autonomous vehicles, medical robots and other devices where safety is paramount.

"The Cortex-R52 is the first processor built on the ARMv8-R architecture and it was designed from the ground up to address functional safety," James McNiven, general manager for CPU and media processing groups at ARM, said. "We are helping partners to meet particular market opportunities, especially in fully autonomous vehicles and robotics systems where specific functionality is required for safety-critical tasks."

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The chip works by detecting and rectifying faults, whether a problem with hardware, software or a hack. This could be used to find problems in an autonomous car's braking, acceleration or steering when it comes across an obstacle and quickly fixes them, ensuring the passenger's safety is addressed immediately.

"All computers break down eventually and when it does you need it to be safe, especially if human lives are at stake," Richard York, ARM's vice president of embedded marketing told the Financial Times.

"No one else has tried to keep all those little pieces of code separate and make sure you can spot when anything goes wrong. The processor helps to detect and manage faults in real time."

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The Cortex-R52 processor can switch between tasks 14 times faster than previous chips, which is essential when it will be powering such important machines.

ARM said it has had conversations with car manufacturers including Ford, BMW and Volvo, plus lead thinkers in the autonomous space such as Uber and Google about installing the chip in cars.

"We have had discussions with all of them about how we could help them. That's why we developed the processor in the first place," York added.

The Cortex-R52 has already been licensed to semiconductor firm STMicroelectronics so it can start experimenting with the chip.

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