Arm introduces new automotive image signal processor

2 min read

Arm has announced the addition of the Mali-C78AE ISP to its portfolio of IP specifically developed to meet the performance and safety needs of automotive applications.

Combined with the Cortex-A78AE and Mali-G78AE, the addition of Mali-C78AE provides a full Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) pipeline that will help to optimise performance, reduce power consumption, and provide a consistent approach to functional safety, helping to power the next phase of mass market ADAS deployment.

Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) have grown from a premium vehicle feature to a capability that consumers now expect as standard in new vehicles and drivers increasingly depend on ADAS applications such as collision avoidance, lane departure warnings and automated emergency braking, while vehicles increasingly rely on cameras positioned around the car to enable many of these features.

A recent report from Strategy Analytics found that the value of the automotive camera market is expected to grow by greater than 19% from 2020 to 2025, making it the most important sensor type in providing data needed for the vehicle to make decisions about its surroundings.

As the number and sophistication of vehicle cameras increases, so does the compute power needed to translate the high throughput of image data – efficiently and safely – into outputs that meet the varying requirements for machine and human vision.

To enable new capabilities in ADAS and autonomous driving, the industry will need a new approach to image processing. The Mali-C78AE is designed specifically to address both human and machine vision safety applications and is able to process data from up to four real-time or 16 virtual cameras.  

Developed from the ground up with hardware safety mechanisms and diagnostic software features enabling system designers to meet ISO 26262 ASIL B functional safety requirements, the Mali-C78AE aims to prevent or detect faults in a single camera frame that may result in incorrectly processed frame data. To do this, the ISP features over 380 fault detection circuits, continuous built-in self-test, and can detect sensor and hardware faults of connected cameras.

Equally as important to safety and user experience is processing speed which is a key element of the Mali-C78AE. It should take 150 milliseconds to acquire an image at the sensor, process it through the ISP then GPU, and display it on a screen for the driver; anything longer is noticeable to the driver when using parking assist, for example.

In a machine vision application, a vehicle should not travel more than 250mm between a camera image being acquired and it being presented to the decision-making processing, and anything longer means the machine vision system is too slow to react in driving situations where accurate and timely decisions are critical.

The Mali-C78AE employs advanced noise reduction technology and dynamic range management to ensure each frame is clear and properly exposed by adjusting overly dark or bright areas of a frame. It can perform real-time processing of camera data from up to four high-resolution-high-frame rate cameras, significantly reducing the memory, communications, and processing requirements, making for a more efficient system.

To reduce the cost of implementing multiple ADAS functions, the Mali-C78AE enables camera sensors to be dual-purpose by downscaling and colour-translating the outputs of sensors optimised for machine vision to create images adapted to the human eye. By avoiding duplication in cameras and their associated electronics and wiring, OEMs will be able to save on cost and complexity and as a consequence enable wider deployment of camera-based ADAS features across a diverse range of car models providing a safer, better user experience for drivers.