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SiFive Brings RISC-V into the Automotive Space in a Major Way

Written by Stephen Vicinanza

SiFive brings RISC-V into the automotive space in a major way. SiFive is not exactly a chip manufacturer but does sell plans for chipmakers to follow. They use the RISC-V Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) which is an open-source, modular architecture for chip programming. SiFive is now offering a chip scenario that can work in the increasingly complex centralized automobile systems, the E6-A.

There are key functionalities around automobile systems are changing drastically in recent months. These changes are key trends in the architecture, which include centralized computing, more computing at the sensing edge, greater software complexity due to mixed-criticality (or the systems that can run hardware and software systems of different types of critical functionality, such as safety-critical at the same time as non-safety critical) also a shifting away from domain controllers to zonal systems.

The changes that are happening in these areas are calling for more capable electronic control units (ECUs), and more functionality across fewer devices.

The most obvious answer to these key needs is the open-source standard, which allows multiple vendors to offer more choices in features. Overall the open standard drives down costs and helps designers have more freedom to utilize the latest capabilities of products as they hit the market.

In the world of chip manufacturing Arm and Intel x86 are the dominant driving forces in general-purpose processors. Both of these manufacturers use proprietary architectures, meaning only certain vendors and software types can be used with their processors. RISC-V is an open standard ISA and gaining a great deal of space in the world of chip manufacturing.

The RISC-V ISA is offering something to chip purchasers that other companies don’t offer, multiple vendor optionality, and more ways to license from those vendors. This gives designers more flexibility to design their IP the way they want. All while maintaining ecosystem and software flexibility.

SiFive is introducing its E6-A series of plans for chipmakers. The IP in these series is developed for the greater complexity and centralization of automotive IP for microcontrollers and microprocessors.

SiFive is saying it is the only RISC-V IP supplier to offer multiple processor series that can meet the needs of automotive designers in key areas of compute, security, and integrity.

The E6-A series is meant for digital control applications such as steering, S7-A for the now-named “safety islands” that can act as a fail-safe for critical applications. And in the farthest reaches of machine learning, there is the X280-A. This chip manages data from image sensors and also applies machine learning that can also work with autonomous driving.

Renesas has been closely collaborating with SiFive to bring the strong benefits of RISC-V to many of their products,” said Takeshi Kataoka, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Automotive Solution Business Unit at Renesas. “RISC-V continues to gain momentum around the world, and we plan to leverage SiFive’s portfolio of automotive RISC-V products in our future automotive SoC solutions to meet the exacting demands of these global customers.”

For more information on the new line of IPs for MCUs and MPUs see the SiFive automotive product page on the website here.

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For the past 8 years, I have been writing about embedded technologies, added to my technical, academic, and medical editorial experience, with companies like Elsevier and Cambridge University Press. I tell people to read what I write, not try to pronounce my last name. I am always available for comments and suggestions you can reach me at and I promise I will take the time to reach back out to you. I live in the North East with my wonderful family.

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SiFive Brings RISC-V into the Automotive Space in a Major Way

by Stephen Vicinanza time to read: 2 min