The AV Stack – A look at key enablers for automated vehicles

The race towards automated vehicle technology moved into high gear recently when Intel announced a bid to acquire Mobileye for $15 billion.   

Intel has recognized the growth opportunities in automated vehicle technologies and has assembled a group of core assets necessary to build out the “AV Stack.”  The AV Stack will consist of multiple domains consolidated into a platform that can handle end-to-end automation. This includes perception, data fusion, cloud/OTA, localization, behavior (a.k.a. driving policy), control and safety. 

The AV Stack is also known as “domain control” although some have begun to label it multi-domain control since it consolidates the functions of many domains into one. The trend towards domain consolation has been going on for a while although there has been a slow movement. However, automation tends to push for this architecture because it would not be efficient to do it in a highly-distributed way.  

Domain control also makes sense from a middleware standpoint. Virtualization of processes is now possible through the OS Stack where you can isolate safety critical functions from non-safety critical functions.   Furthermore, middleware abstraction layers enable developers to write to a common interface specification and not have to worry about RTE and BSW components.  

The AV Stack is really the brains behind autonomous cars including all supporting tasks such as communications, data management, fail safe as well as the middleware and software applications. It is a collection of hardware and software components that are tightly integrated into a domain controller and will be the basis for Automated Systems Level 3 and higher.  

The AV Stack represents the greatest collection of advanced IP content in future cars and is a big opportunity for suppliers that have the capacity to string it all together. 

copyright 2017 -- VSI Labs

copyright 2017 -- VSI Labs

For suppliers of automotive processors developing an AV Stack is the right thing to do assuming you are targeting vehicle automation. Most of the leading suppliers of processors for automotive are already doing this to some capacity. NXP, Renesas, TI, Intel and Nvidia all have development kits that support multiple nodes in the AV value chain. 

You also have tier-one suppliers getting into this space on the premise that processor companies don't necessarily have all the knowhow to build-out a full ECU domain.  Recently, Nvidia has done deals with both ZF and Bosch which are along these lines.  Delphi is active with their CSLP platform and counts Mobileye and Intel as their partners for processing logic. 

Another player in the space is TTTech, an Austrian firm that specializes in ECU technologies and is a major partner in Audi’s Zfas controller.  TTTech’s approach is supported by Renesas processors as well as application development framework called TTA Integration.  

Outlook

It is not that easy to estimate the total available market (TAM) for the AV Stack because the take rate for Level-3 automation (or higher) will be gradual at first. You also have so many supporting domains and licensed IP from third parties. You have multicore architectures, co-processors, lots of memory, a communications stack, and lots and lots of firmware. 

The AV Stack is probably worth at least $10,000 (ASP) if you include the sensors. Within the context of future mobility the AV Stack is the highest concentration of value and probably becomes the single most valuable piece of future vehicles.