Chip designer ARM launches processor fit for driverless cars

September 20, 2016 8:16 AM EDT

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By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - ARM, the British chip designer powering the global mobile phone industry, launched a new processor on Tuesday for driverless cars, seeking to secure its place at the heart of the burgeoning industry.

Bought by Japan's SoftBank for $32 billion this month, ARM said the processor was designed to increase safety in increasingly complex systems and could work across a range of industries from autonomous vehicles to industrial and medical robotics.

The Cortex-R52 processor, which has been under construction for between 3 and 5 years, has been licensed to Franco-Italian chipmaker and partner STMicroelectronics in its first deal.

ARM said the processor was designed to keep the most critical software code separate, in order to protect the running of the platform. That would enable it to improve safety when a car wants to overtake, accelerate or break suddenly, for example.

"If you have a piece of safety critical code, you want to be sure that nothing can interfere with that," John Ronco, VP Product Marketing, told Reuters.

The 26-year-old ARM, based in Cambridge, eastern England, provides the technology in nearly all smartphones including Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy.

It is also poised to play a central role in the tech industry shift to the 'internet of things' - a network of devices, vehicles and building sensors that collect and exchange data.

"What we see is that all of these systems have a similar technology platform, a similar framework in terms of what they're doing, and they have the same requirements in terms of having processors that can safely make decisions about what the system should do," Ronco said.

Autonomous or driverless cars are seen as the next big thing for the tech industry, with the British government putting the market value at 900 billion pounds ($1.17 trillion) worldwide.

Traditional automakers face competition from rivals such as Tesla and technology firms such as Alphabet Inc's unit Google, which wants eventually to be able to deploy fully autonomous vehicles without human controls.

($1 = 0.7718 pounds)

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Tom Heneghan)



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