VW software subsidiary Cariad, ST co-develop high-performance automotive SoC

VW software subsidiary Cariad, ST co-develop high-performance automotive SoC

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The Volkswagen Group’s software company Cariad and STMicroelectronics are planning to co-develop system-on-chips (SoC) for cars. Together, the two want to develop customised hardware for connectivity, energy management and over-the-air updates, enabling the software-defined and safe car of the future.

The planned cooperation will benefit the Volkswagen Group’s new generation of vehicles, which will be based on Cariad’s unified, scalable software platform. According to a Cariad spokesperson, the platform is scheduled to roll off the production line from 2026; up to 40 million vehicles across the Volkswagen group are to be equipped with it. Members of the Volkswagen Group are, among others, Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and, of course, Volkswagen

At the same time, the partners have agreed that the semiconductor contract manufacturer TSMC will produce the wafers needed for the system-on-chip for ST. In this way, Cariad wants to secure the chip supply for the Volkswagen Group’s cars years in advance.

With the ST cooperation, Cariad is continuing its strategy of developing specially adapted chips for its platforms through cooperation with semiconductor manufacturers. Only last May, Cariad concluded a similar agreement with Qualcomm. According to this agreement, the American chip manufacturer will modify its Snapdragon Ride platform for the vehicles of the VW Group. While the Qualcomm chip will be used exclusively in a special computer for autonomous driving at SAE level 4, the component developed by ST will be used in a relatively broad range of applications. The starting point for this chip is STMicroelectronics’ Stellar microcontroller family.

As part of its semiconductor strategy, Cariad is for the first time entering into direct relationships with semiconductor suppliers at the Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels for the Volkswagen Group. In future, the group’s Tier 1 suppliers will only use the system-on-chips jointly developed by ST and Cariad or the standard microcontrollers from ST’s Stellar family for Cariad’s zone architecture. “We will launch a pioneering new collaboration model: with the planned direct cooperation with STMicroelectronics and TSMC, we are actively shaping our entire semiconductor supply chain. We will ensure that exactly the chips we need for our cars are produced and secure the supply of microchips in demand years in advance,” says Murat Aksel, Volkswagen Group Board Member for Purchasing. “We are thus setting new standards in strategic supply chain management.”

The co-development with ST is also a first for Cariad. “The standard chip will be optimally adapted to our software – without compromise. In this way, we can offer our group’s customers the best performance from their cars,” says Cariad CEO Dirk Hilgenberg. “The use of a uniform, best possible adapted architecture in all ECUs gives us an enormous boost for the efficient development of our software platform.” Because: in future, all ECU chips from the microcontroller to the SoC can run on a common basic software.

Contract manufacturer TSMC is also on board for the cooperation: with this, Cariad wants to protect itself against fluctuations in the supply chain.

The new system-on-chip is intended to complement ST’s Stellar family upwards: It will feature advanced yet power-efficient real-time capability for service-oriented architectures (SOA). The Cariad team is bringing to the development what specific requirements and functionalities the chips need to meet for use in Volkswagen Group cars and will work to extend the architecture of the 32-bit Stellar microcontroller accordingly.

“ST has developed its Stellar architecture specifically to facilitate the transition to software-defined vehicles. Cariad’s decision to work with ST to address the requirements and functionalities of Volkswagen Group’s next-generation vehicles underscores the success of our approach,” said Marco Monti, president of ST’s Automotive and Discrete Products Group. Cariad and STMicroelectronics have already agreed on the important points of the cooperation. Currently, the partners are finalising the details and will sign detailed agreements shortly.

In addition to the jointly developed SoC based on the Stellar family, Cariad will also include the standard Stellar microcontroller in its new “AU1” processor family. This range enables flexible scaling for various applications in the car to meet the different needs of the Volkswagen Group brands. The chips can be used for all applications in the field of networking and comfort electronics, energy management and powertrain – in zone controllers or in servers under the new VW.OS operating system. The AU1 family is said to have sufficient performance reserves to be able to easily map future function expansions via over-the-air updates.

By using a standard chip, the Cariad experts only have to develop one basic software for all ECUs – this reduces complexity enormously and speeds up development. In addition, thanks to the Stellar architecture, the developers can integrate different functions into individual ECUs and thus significantly reduce the total number in the car – another point that increases the economic efficiency for the software company.

In the partnership with STMicroelectronics, Cariad will further expand its expertise in semiconductors and gain experience in co-developing semiconductors. “This is the first step,” says Cariad CTO Lynn Longo. “In the future, we also want to get into the co-development of high-performance semiconductors for complex functions.”

Related articles:

Bosch, Volkswagen join forces of automated driving

Cariad commits to open source software

How powerful processors are helping to advance vehicle architectures

Hailo, Renesas team up for seamless transition from ADAS to automated driving

Qualcomm continues to expand positions in automotive electronics

Automotive MCUs are optimized for software-defined electric vehicles

ST fleshes out Stellar automotive MCU features

ST starts shipments of its Stellar microcontrollers to selected customers


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