Committing To Automotive

Given the numerous safety, reliability and security requirements for the automotive segment, a dedication to working through the details is critical.


The autonomous driving effort has hit some painful speedbumps lately, with Tesla and Uber feeling the brunt of these. Unfortunately, the recent fatal accidents demonstrate just how challenging it is to get this technology right, and why some in this space have downshifted their efforts to learn from what happened and how to prevent it going forward.

This prompted Nvidia to suspend its efforts here. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said publicly during the 2018 GPU Technology Conference, “We suspended because there is obviously a new data point as a result of the accident. As good engineers, we should simply wait to see if we can learn something from that experience. We don’t know that we would do anything different, but we should give ourselves time to see if we can learn from that incident. It won’t take long.”

This is the kind of wise reflection that is needed, combined with commitment and dedication to the segment in general.

Will Chu, vice president and general manager of the automotive business unit at Marvell stressed that playing in the automotive space requires a very high level of commitment, which is the same for an entire company to be successful in any new industry. “Within Marvell, we feel like we have world class technology in these different domains. We really want to complement that with strong commitment to making it work for our customers in a particular vertical market, in this case it is automotive. We have a similar focus in our other end markets – data center or communications, etc. Having the technology is a starting point but ultimately it’s the commitment we’re making to helping our customers be successful. The combination of those two is what you really need to be successful ultimately.”

Case in point. Recently, Marvell working with Nvidia to integrate a secure Automotive Ethernet switch into Nvidia’s DRIVE Pegasus Platform for Level 5 autonomy, which it believes makes it the first automotive supercomputer with embedded security built into the hardware layer.

What drove this was the fact that security in general really starts at the automotive OEM level, Chu said. “Our position with most of our customers is that if you want security, it can’t be an afterthought. We strongly recommend that our OEM customers in their RFQs and RFIs put security as a requirement, and it’s not an afterthought because obviously engineering a system to add security after all this work has been done can be quite challenging. Generally speaking, we think it’s better to put it in up front. Similarly with our Tier 1 partners to the extent that they develop generic platforms for multiple OEMs. Here too we would recommend that those Tier 1 partners also consider security up front. Then obviously the ecosystem of suppliers, like Marvell, typically will respond with products and features and solutions.”

The work here goes deeper into the technology foundation.

Tim Lau, senior director of product marketing for automotive Ethernet at Marvell noted that companies like Marvell that have a long history with multiple generations of Ethernet technology was sought out by the automotive industry given its strong technology hold here. They said, “’You have Ethernet IP, Ethernet technology but you don’t understand automotive. We want you to develop an automotive specific Ethernet solution.’ That’s where Marvell stepped in as the leader in Automotive Ethernet technology to drive the standardization of next generation Automotive Ethernet including the 1000BaseT1 or Gigabit Automotive Ethernet connectivity physical layer transceiver. This drove Marvell to ensure that it worked very closely with the OEMs, Tier 1s and third party partners to understand all of the different aspects in automotive that needed to be addressed, including security.”

This is what made it possible to integrate security features such as denial of service attack prevention, the ability to do deep packet inspection, to be able to filter out potential cyber attack-type packets directly from the secure automotive switch solution, Lau said. “Being able to white list or black list certain traffic coming into the switch. These are all techniques that the company was familiar with from a general Ethernet perspective but did work closely with OEMs, Tier 1s and partners to be able to realize that in the next gen solution.”

At the end of the day, true autonomous vehicles will come, but hopefully no other lives will be lost during the process. What it will require is more simulation, more testing, more development, more validation and verification to ensure true safety and security.

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