Volkswagen's Software Unit CARIAD to Co-Develop a System-on-Chip With STMicroelectronics for the Automaker's Future Software-defined Vehicles

Volkswagen's Software Unit CARIAD to Co-Develop a System-on-Chip With STMicroelectronics for the Automaker's Future Software-defined Vehicles

Author: Eric Walz   

Volkswagen's new independent software unit CARIAD, which is creating and operating system and architecture for the automaker's future software-defined vehicles, will soon begin the joint development of an automotive system-on-chip (SoC) chip together with semiconductor company STMicroelectronics ("ST"), a company that's a global semiconductor leader. 

The jointly developed chip will be used in the next generation of Volkswagen vehicles.

CARIAD was established in 2020. The unit has around 5,000 engineers and developers today working on a unified software platform and OS for all Volkswagen Group brand vehicles. The platform being developed by CARIAD includes a vehicle operating system dubbed "VW.OS", a unified vehicle architecture and an automotive cloud. The SoC will be used in the new platform of Volkswagen vehicles starting in the middle of the decade. 

VW's future electric vehicles will be entirely software-defined and will be continuously updated over-the-air. The SoC will be specifically designed for vehicle connectivity, energy management, and over-the-air updates.

"With the co-development of the system-on-chip with ST ahead of us, we are consistently pursuing our semiconductor strategy,'' said CARIAD CEO, Dirk Hilgenberg. "The use of a single, optimized architecture in all Volkswagen electronic control units will give us an enormous boost for the efficient development of our software platform."

CARIAD and ST are also moving towards an agreement for leading global semiconductor company TSCM to manufacture the SoC wafers for ST. This will help ensure that CARIAD will secure the chip supply its needs for Volkswagen's vehicle years in advance. It will help Volkswagen avoid the chip shortages and supply chain issues that automakers have been dealing with for the past two years.

"We are about to launch a groundbreaking new cooperation model for the Volkswagen Group. With the planned direct cooperation with ST and TSMC, we are actively shaping our entire semiconductor supply chain," said Murat Aksel, Volkswagen Group's Board Member for Purchasing. "We're ensuring the production of the exact chips we need for our cars and securing the supply of critical microchips for years to come," says "In this way, we are setting new standards in strategic supply chain management."

CARIAD's semiconductor strategy includes entering into direct relationships with semiconductor suppliers at the Tier 2 and Tier 3-level for the entire Volkswagen Group for the first time ever. 

In the future, CARIAD plans to direct its Tier 1 suppliers to use only the SoC co-developed with ST, along with the company's standard Stellar microcontroller for CARIAD's zone vehicle architecture, which reduces complexity and the number of vehicle ECUs required.

The complexity of new vehicle architectures requires more powerful automotive microcontrollers. ST's Stellar Integration microcontrollers support the next-generation of Volkswagen's software-defined vehicle architecture under development by CARIAD. 

The architecture includes using domain controllers for vehicle drivetrain and electrification integration, as well as zone controllers for integrating body and other vehicle convenience applications.

Using a common device architecture will allow CARIAD to develop only one basic software for all of the vehicle's electronic control units (ECU), substantially reducing complexity and accelerating Volkswagen's development timelines.

CARIAD will include both the jointly developed SoCs based on Stellar and the standard Stellar microcontroller in its new AU1 processor family.

The chips are being designed for all applications in the areas of vehicle networking, drivetrain, energy management, and comfort electronics in zone controllers or in servers in the automaker's VW.OS. 

ST's Stellar Integration MCUs feature non-volatile Phase-Change Memory (PCM), offering fast read access times. 

ST designed its Stellar architecture specifically to facilitate the transition to software-defined vehicles and CARIAD's decision to work with ST to fit the requirements and functionalities of the Volkswagen Group's next-generation vehicles highlights the success of our approach," said Marco Monti, President of ST's Automotive and Discrete Products Group.

This new collaboration between CARIAD and ST is the latest example of an automaker partnering with a chip maker as modern vehicles become more like smartphones on wheels. 

Leading chip and hardware manufacturers, including NVIDIA, Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Technologies are rapidly expanding their presence in the automotive sector as demand for hardware and chips that support advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), autonomous driving and vehicle connectivity grows. 

The new partnership between CARIAD and ST will be ongoing. It allows CARIAD to further expand its expertise in semiconductors and gain additional experience in their co-development with an industry partner. 

"This is just the first step," says CARIAD CTO Lynn Longo. "In the future, we also aim to enter into co-development of high-performance semiconductors for complex functions."

CARIAD is also working with other leading companies in the development of VW.OS. In May, CARIAD announced it selected Qualcomm Technologies to supply system-on-chips (SoCs) for its vehicle software platform designed to deliver up to SAE level-4 autonomous driving capabilities in future VW vehicles.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon Ride is one of the industry's most advanced, scalable and fully customizable ADAS platforms available to automakers for adding advanced safety features, as well as autonomous driving capabilities to their models. 

The Snapdragon Ride Platform allows CARIAD to select which high-performance chips are used and match them with the vehicle software requirements.

Earlier this month, CARIAD announced that it selected BlackBerry QNX technology for VW.OS. As part of the agreement, BlackBerry will license its QNX technology to CARIAD, including its QNX OS for Safety, which is a pre-certified microkernel operating system designed for safety-critical embedded systems, as well as the toolchains for engineers building these systems. 

The toolchains are qualified to ISO 26262, which is an international standard for the functional safety of electrical and electronic systems installed in vehicles. 

As part of the VW.OS software stack, Blackberry's QNX OS for Safety will serve as a secure foundation. It also includes the safety certificates and documentation so CARAID software engineers can correctly develop and certify safety-critical software systems that will be used in future Volkswagen vehicles. 

Based in Germany, CARIAD has software development centers in Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt, the Stuttgart region, Berlin and Munich. The software unit also works closely with the Volkswagen Group's international development teams in the US and China.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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