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Six Levels of Autonomous Driving and the Memory that Drives Them

Six Levels of Autonomous Driving and the Memory that Drives Them

As you’ve seen in the news in the last year; coming out of every major trade show there is another announcement about autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars. We wanted to take a few minutes to explain Autonomous Driving progression, based on the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) version of autonomous driving. There are six levels of autonomous driving. To help you navigate and provide you additional information about what autonomous cars mean for you as a consumer, this blog explains each level and the way autonomous driving will change our everyday life.

The systems that will enable self-driving vehicles are called ADAS or Advanced driver assistance systems. ADAS Systems can be fairly simple, or get quite complex:

The baseline is level 0 – or no autonomous driving. This actually means the driver is still eyes-on the road and hands-on the wheel. Some supporting systems like rear view camera (RVC) and lane departure warning (LDW) are in some cars. For example, the KTSA (Kids in Transportation Safety Act) is implementing legislation by 2018 in the USA that will require all new cars to have back up cameras factory installed.

At level 1, we begin to see assistance systems like lane keep assistance (LKA), where the car will carefully correct if you begin to exit your lane unless you use your turn signal. Another example of level 1 is adaptive cruise control where your car will automatically match the speed of the slower car in front of you until they are no longer in your path and then resume the set cruise speed. The driver is still hands-on the wheel and eyes-on the road. These systems, LKA, RVC and LDW, tend to use established memory products with little customization for the application, of course they must meet extended life cycle and be designed with automotive requirements in mind including but not limited to high temperature, ISO26262, TS16949, AECQ Compliance (this is accurate for even Level 0).

With level 2, the driver gets a little more freedom and can take their hands-off the wheel sometimes. An example of level 2 ADAS is traffic jam assist (TJA), where the car can take over control to maintain distance and speed from the vehicle in front of it and based on conditions on the road. Given the safety requirements of these systems, the memory used in these systems can require additional customization, such as UHT or Ultra High Temperature up to 125C, and of course there are ASIL considerations. These systems use products like LPDDR2 for execution of the program and Quad SPI NOR for code storage.

We have just started seeing level 3 vehicles come out. At level 3, we see conditional automation where options like automatic parking, meaning you can exit your vehicle, press a button, and it will park itself. This allows for more efficient utilization of urban space as smaller parking spaces can be used. Given 33% of urban space is currently taken up by parking lots this could drastically improve land utilization. To achieve these types of more advanced autonomous functions such as these, car manufacturers must utilize Micron’s leading edge products, like LPDDR4 and Octal SPI, for their bandwidth.

At level 4, imagine arriving late to work with the huge parking lot almost full, your car has the ability to drop you at the entrance; then with the press a button, your car will go find itself a parking spot. When you’re ready to leave, you signal with your mobile phone or press a button, then your car will come pick you up at the entrance. Another example of Level 4 would be used at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Japanese government is challenging the car makers to have level 4 vehicles ready so you can select your language, swipe your credit card and be driven to the venue of your choice. As for the products to support this level of autonomy, Micron sees potential memory candidates on the horizon like e.MMC 5.2, Xccela™ Flash and LPDDR5. We are working closely with our chipset partners and customers to determine the correct memory solutions to meet the performance requirements.

Finally Level 5, imagine a car that doesn’t even have a steering wheel. You are hands-off the wheel and eyes-off the road- you may not even be in the driver’s seat! You would program your navigation system to set a location and the car would transport you there and then it could head home to pick up your kids and take them to school. Or imagine using your car for a business trip from Berlin to Munich, and while the car drives itself, you can work on your presentation. Level 5 requires extremely high bandwidth and high quality products with instant on capabilities, along with automotive qualified mass storage devices.

Micron has been laying the groundwork and advancing automotive memory solutions for over 25 years. We are well established and positioned to support the existing functions and are innovating the memory solutions needed to make these concepts of our customers and partners a reality.

About Our Blogger

James Hawley

James is an Automotive Strategic Marketing Manager for Micron's Embedded Business Unit.

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