The long-rumored Apple Car could use a “C1” chip based on the A12 Bionic processor and boast in-cabin AI capabilities such as eye-tracking, according to a highly-speculative report by analyst Colin Barnden for EETimes.
The report outlines the methodology and licensed technologies believed to be behind an Apple automotive-grade processor, which it tentatively calls the “C1” chip.
Since Apple will require a chip foundry with capacity for automotive processes, the report suggests that Samsung or TSMC could supply Apple. TSMC is believed to have been developing a 7nm automotive-grade process for some time, and Samsung has developed the Exynos Auto V9 SoC on its 8nm process.
With an understanding of the limitations of suppliers, the report suggests that the C1 could bear a close resemblance to the design of the A12 Bionic chip, which is already fabricated with a similar 7nm process, and be manufactured by TSMC.
Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Chip has 6 billion transistors and a power consumption of 36W, falling short of Apple’s A12, which has 6.9 billion transistors and a power consumption of 3.5W. Due to its parity with existing automotive SoCs, it is speculated that the C1 will be based on the A12 Bionic, before being modified for specific automotive applications.
I’m certain Apple would make some tweaks, changes and additions to keep us all guessing, but if the iCar is to enter production in 2024, then a lightly modified variant of the A12 looks like a great starting point for the C1. After all, why re-invent the wheel?
With the knowledge that Apple licenses technologies that it cannot design itself, such as Arm architectural technologies and CPU cores, the report proposes that Apple will license a number of technologies for the C1. Foremost is the Occula NPU core from Seeing Machines, which would enable Apple to implement a plethora of in-cabin AI features such as driver eye-gaze tracking.
Seeing Machines has adopted an Arm-like business model for licensing the Occula Neural Processing Unit, making it available for Apple to implement into its own custom chip designs. Occula boasts AI and computer vision algorithms, human factors expertise with naturalistic driving data, IR optical path expertise operating, and a 3-pillar embedded processing strategy. The technology is therefore believed to be Cupertino’s first choice for designing AI-driven in-cabin monitoring systems.
There is some debate around how close Apple’s consumer vehicle is to market, with speculated launch dates varying from 2024 to 2027. Nevertheless, there has been a striking increase in reports surrounding the Apple Car which suggest that the project is gathering momentum, with Hyundai recently confirming that it is in negotiations regarding Apple Car production.