Automotive IPs Bring New Challenges To IP Management

Building IP to rigorous safety standards is tough, and so is handling all the data required to meet them.


Recent innovations in the automotive industry, like driving assistance, have fueled an insatiable appetite for more electronics in cars. With electronics now a major component of building an automobile, there is growing use of IPs and IP subsystems provided by multiple vendors. It is, however, becoming clear that IPs developed for the automotive industry are a totally different beast compared to the IPs developed for the consumer industry. Not only are the SoCs/IPs created for the automotive industry subject to more adverse conditions with a diverse range from sub-zero temperatures to desert conditions, but the lifespan of the IPs for automotive is also considerably longer, as in over ten years. Since the IPs created for the automotive industry are subject to stringent regulations such as the Functional Safety for Automotive standards, as defined by ISO 26262, IPs are required to go through a more rigorous verification process to include faults triggered by silicon or software failures and can potentially take up to six to eight months longer than the typical verification process.

However, not many of the IPs developed for the automotive industry are compliant with the ISO 26262 standard. Startups and established design houses are eager to leverage the growth in this industry and, with zero automotive experience, struggle to create SoCs for the automotive industry. IP core suppliers such as ARM, Cadence and Synopsys are enabling these companies to drastically cut the development time that it takes to design, certify, and launch safety-critical SoCs by rolling out ASIL- C/D (Automotive Safety Integrity Level) ready-certified IPs for licensing, where the IP’s single points of failure in the entire system is less than 3 or 1%. Getting an ASIL C/D certification is not trivial and can take more than a year at a time working with independent certification bodies.

Now let’s look at the development of IPs for automotive from an infrastructure and IP management perspective, because this brings about more challenges. No longer can IP management systems or home grown solutions afford to be simple repositories with simplistic attributes and categories to aid IP search. Instead they need to be scalable to meet the unique requirements of enterprises with large number of IPs. The management system needs to track the various IPs through their development stage while accumulating the needed knowledge-base from all sections of the development team, including the software teams. The IP management system needs to be the single source for all data related to the IP such as ISO certifications, specifications, architecture, issues, verification results, certifications, discussions and resolutions, etc.

This becomes even more relevant as designers move on to different projects or companies. Given the long lifespan required for automotive ICs, enterprises need a single system where they can find all information pertaining to an IP. For example, if an issue is found by the current design team, the designer needs to be able to browse the knowledge-base to evaluate whether a workaround exists or find relevant information to enable a speedy resolution.

In an era where platform-based designs rule, it is critical to track the IPs, along with their numerous incarnations, across the IP subsystems and SoCs and keep track of all the necessary attributes such as the foundry, process node, PDKs, certifications, etc. As companies buy third party IPs, it now becomes even more important to manage licenses effectively to mitigate liabilities and manage the security of the IP data. Then there are the companies that merge or forge partnerships, and it becomes important to consolidate all the IP collateral so as to mutually benefit and develop the SoCs faster.

Moreover, with the increased usage of data management systems such as Perforce, ClioSoft’s SOS, SVN etc., it becomes necessary for the IP management systems to be versatile in managing design data stored in all these repositories with the minimal amount of maintenance overhead.

Clearly, IP management needs to be thought afresh to meet these new challenges.

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