NXP is Revving Up ADAS Technology with 16 nm FinFET Processors

June 02, 2021 by Jake Hertz

Recently, AAC had the chance to sit down with Matthias Feulner and Brian Carlson from NXP to hear about two new automotive processors on 16nm technology.

The pressure for vehicle autonomy has been revving up with the movement towards EVs. The difficult part about this movement is the need for more sophisticated hardware for the never-ending attempt to increase both autonomy and safety. 

One company that has been investing heavily in the automotive industry is NXP. Though NXP has addressed autonomous driving systems (ADS) and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in the past, it is still attempting to push the limits of this technology. 


NXP has recently been focused on automotive hardware.

NXP has recently focused on automotive hardware. Image used courtesy of NXP


Despite the constant effort of NXP and other companies to improve driving systems, the need to keep improving is intense.

As stated by Brian Carlson, "We see these requirements evolving very dynamically for our classical ADAS, as well as automated driving applications" and that "the bottom line is there isn't really a one size fits all that could be targeted at the automotive market, but rather we need to account for a wide range of differing requirements across car OEM brand and model portfolios that require us to provide flexibility to cater towards their individual requirements and situational factors."

With this in mind, NXP has moved its radar processors and network processors to TSMC's 16 nm FinFET technology to meet this demand. To learn more about this movement, AAC had the chance to sit down with Matthias Feulner and Brian Carlson, directors at NXP, to get the inside scoop of their new device advancements. 


Network Processor on 16 nm 

As vehicles become more intelligent, data transfer needs to move at higher and higher speeds. This requirement creates a  severe need for in-vehicle networking infrastructure, which seems to be what NXP has been approaching with its S32G2 family of vehicle network processors. 

The ASIL D-rated S32G2 family provides real-time processing and network acceleration in an automotive environment. This flexible family of devices is used in applications including domain and zonal controllers, service-oriented gateways, and ADAS safety processing. 


The block diagram of the S32G2 processor shows just how highly integrated the device is.

The block diagram of the S32G2 processor shows just how highly integrated the device is. Image used courtesy of NXP


The move to 16 nm for this family has allowed the device to be highly integrated, combining multiple chips into one more powerful SoC. 

A single S32 processor can expect to find Quad Arm Cortex-A53 cores and Triple Arm Cortex-M7 lockstep cores for real-time applications, NXP's proprietary Low Latency Communication Engine (LLCE), Ethernet Packet Forwarding (PFE) for network acceleration, and a Hardware Security Engine (HSE) for secure boot and security services. 

By providing all of this functionality and move on to one chip with a move to 16 nm, NXP claims their improved S32 family offers more than 10x the performance and networking of previous families. 

Though this one announcement should be enough to talk about, NXP is releasing a radar processor on the same 16 nm technology. 


Radar Processor on 16 nm 

Another automotive focus for NXP has been on radar systems, where the S32 family, announced last December, has been a flagship for its automotive line.

Specifically, within the S32 family, the S32R45 radar processor has been its premium offering. When paired with S32 transceivers, the S32R45 radar can bring 4D imaging radar to life while claiming to offer a 50% power reduction from an FPGA equivalent. 


Automotive use cases for radar.

Automotive use cases for radar. Image used courtesy of NXP


Now the S32R294, which is the old radar processor moved to 16nm node, further improves these already impressive features. 

This movement allows the new processor to offer up to 5.5 MB SRAM, an additional MIPI CSI-2 interface from previous generations, and a core clock frequency that is double that of previous generations. Altogether, NXP hopes these improvements will allow carmakers to create scalable solutions for applications, including advanced corner radar, long-range front radar, blind-spot detection, lane change assistance, and elevation sensing. 


Impact on Industry 

As carmakers push to increase vehicle autonomy and safety, NXP is working to provide the best hardware solutions possible. By moving their network processors and radar processors to TSMC 16 nm technology, it is hoping that they'll boost performance and become an industry leader in the automotive hardware space.