Chip producer NXP: ‘Autonomous car not before 2030’
Kurt Sievers, president of chip producer NXP, expects the autonomous car not to be technically ready before 2030. NXP is one of the most important automotive chip producers and has the 10 biggest car manufacturers among its clients.
Last week, Sievers opened the yearly two day conference of NXP in Silicon Valley. There were talks about everything needing chips to store and interpret data, but the automotive part remained dominant.
At the moment, an autonomous vehicle has to use laser technology to estimate distances accurately. NXP admits this but is nevertheless aiming a lot of its research and resources at radar. In five years, NXP wants to ameliorate the resolution of radar pics 50 times.
These (cheaper) radar systems have to be able to recognize everything on the road, all around the car and at a fairly big distance. NXP expects that in the second half of 2021 the first cars will be fitted with some radar technology.
Chips have to become ever smaller and their reaction time quicker. “We go to silicon with a thickness of 7 nanometre, 5 and 3 are coming,” says Steve Owen, sales boss at NXP.
During the congress, NXP announced a new brand: Edgeverse. With this system the car integrates the computers which steer everything. “To send everything to the cloud and back costs too much time,” says Owen. “Even with 5G. The computers have to be in the car.”
“Of course, part of the info will be sent to the cloud, to share, but for driving everything has to be on board.” To improve connections in and outside the car, NXP recently bought the wifi and bluetooth division of Marvell (1,6 billion euros).
Not before 2030
NXP expects level 3 of autonomous driving to be possible in 2021-2023 and a few years later level 4. But the truly autonomous car (level 5) won’ t be available before 2030 is the consensus.
“The ultimate goal,” says Sievers, “is a car world without emissions, without traffic jams and without accidents.” We’re not only talking traffic safety here but also cyber security. “We are already far concerning security,” explains Owen.
But NXP has a group of ‘friendly hackers’, (most of them from Dutch and Belgian universities) that test everything before it goes into production. “Nobody can guarantee 100% security, but we have so many layers of security that we think to be ahead 3 to 5 years on the hackers.”
No compromises about safety, every participant in Silicon valley agrees on this. But in the end an autonomous car has also to be competitive price wise. And the most important question was asked by Wesley Shao of Chinese Byton: “Will people immediately trust the technology?”
The problem is that current traffic situations are too much to be asked from an autonomous car. It’s still too complicated. It will still take a while to come to level 5.
Driver’s license for car and driver
So, will the youngsters born in the 21st century still need a driver’s license? “They will probably still need one,” says Bart Van Arem from the technical university TU Delft. “But also the car of 2035 will have to pass an exam. Otherwise they won’t be admitted on the road either.”