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AI-enabled automated driving dev kit has dual Linux brains

Jan 11, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 554 views

NXP unveiled a BlueBox 3.0 automotive platform that runs Linux on an up to 16-core -A72 LX2160A and a quad -A53, 3x -M7 S32G. You get an optional Kalray MPPA AI chip, 6x PCIe Gen3, and 8x LAN ports up to 100GbE.

The CES show is on this week, or at least Digital CES, without all the swag and the temptations of Las Vegas to distract you. As usual, automotive news is on tap, starting with NXP’s BlueBox 3.0 Automotive High Performance Compute (AHPC) Development Platform, which runs Linux on two separate Cortex-A processors.



BlueBox 3.0
(click images to enlarge)

BlueBox 3.0 enables sensor fusion in self-driving or highly automated vehicles, with specific applications including highway autopilot and automated parking. With v3.0, NXP has added its S32G networking processor to its BlueBox platform, bringing ASIL D level functional safety features to the platform.

For its central processor, BlueBox 3.0 has advanced to a faster, up to 16-core, Cortex-A72 LX2160A, up from an octa-core, -A72 based LS2084A on its earlier BlueBox 2.0. Once again, there is an optional Kalray MPPA neural acceleration SoC delivered via a PCIe card.

BlueBox 3.0 enables the development of zonal architectures and high-performance computing systems for analyzing driving environments, assessing risk factors, and directing the car’s behavior. The latest model’s addition of the S32G (specifically the S32274) enables safety Level 2+ (L2+) automated driving. The latest model also accelerates the evolution toward zonal architectures in automotive computers, which in turn enables more differentiated, user-defined vehicles, says NXP.

Designed as a network processor for ADAS and autonomous cars, NXP’s S32G runs Linux on a quad-core, Cortex-A53 block accompanied by 3x Cortex-M7 cores. The headless SoC is loaded with coprocessors including Ethernet packet forwarding and hardware security engines. Network accelerators include CAN FD, FlexRay, SPI, and LIN (Local Interconnect Network), as well as a Low Latency Communications Engine (LLCE). The S32G SoC has appeared on MicroSys’ MPX-S32G274A module and miriac SBC-S32G274A SBC.



S32G (left) and Kalray Coolidge MPPA block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The up to 2.2GHz Layerscape LX2160A processor, meanwhile, offers double the processing performance of BlueBox 2.0’s LS2084A, claims NXP. The LX2160A is said to accommodate radar, vision, and LiDAR signal paths for advanced sensor fusion applications.

NXP does not list a TOPS rating for the Kalray Coolidge MPPA (Massively Parallel Processor Array) SoC. However, Kalray lists 25 TOPs (8-bit) for its Coolidge MPPA3 SoC, which comprises 5x clusters, each with 16x neural processing cores for AI and ML acceleration plus a security and management core. BlueBox 2.0 was limited to optional 1-TOPS acceleration using earlier MPPA chips.

The Kalray MPPA provides perception, prediction, and pathfinding capabilities and support for emerging connected services. Other features include dual 100GbE controllers, crypto and security features, and a 16-lane PCIe Gen4 interface.

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The Linux based BlueBox 3.0 SDK integrates a Software Development Environment (SDE) that supports the Kalray MPPA processors. Robot Operating System (ROS) support is also available. The SDK enables an ASIL D subsystem as well as an ASIL B compute subsystem with automotive interfaces and vision acceleration support.



BlueBox 3.0 rear view (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The BlueBox 3.0 system ships with 16GB DDR4 and a 256GB SSD via an M.2 slot with NVMe support. A PSU and an unnamed FPGA are also on board.

The system provides NXP’s SJA1110 automotive Ethernet switch with TSN support. The system’s up to 8x Ethernet ports can be connected at up to 100GbE, although the default models offer a mix of 1GbE and 10GbE. There are also 2x or 6x PCIe Gen3 slots.

The LX2160A-driven interfaces include microSD, USB 3.0, 4x 10GbE, 2x 1GbE, and CAN FD connectors. The S32G, which is enabled via an unnamed compute module, controls an additional microSD slot, 2x additional 1GbE ports, and CAN FD and FlexRay connectors.

The processors share a micro-USB serial debug port. There is also a 12V/24V vehicle compatible power input.

 
Further information

The BlueBox 3.0 is available to approved customers at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in NXP’s announcement and product page .
 

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