Dual core processors have been used for years in PCs, cell phones and other consumer products, so it’s easy to think that all the advances in CPUs come in multicore devices. But in many high reliability markets, single core processors are still seen as the best design choice.
In autos and other demanding markets, design engineers want to keep using programs and algorithms that have been proven in past applications. In critical applications like powertrains and airbags, the shift to multicores usually happens only when there’s something major changing. In these life-and-death systems, it’s typically as easy to write everything from scratch rather than trying to revise algorithms to run on dual cores.
“Eliminating faults is a major concern,” said Marc Serughetti, product marketing director at Synopsys. “Race conditions are the biggest concern.”
Synopsys was among the many companies at the Renesas Developers Conference talking about trends in microcontrollers. Renesas unveiled its high reliability microcontrollers, with only a few multicores in the mix. Renesas is the largest semiconductor supplier in the auto market, so its moves are important for this high reliability field.
While the chips that will ship in the short term are mostly single cores, these devices are fading away. Much of the Renesas road map includes multicores, which provide faster processing without the increase in power and heat that comes when clock rates move upward. Multicores are destined to take over everywhere, but the transition often doesn’t occur as quickly as conventional wisdom might suggest.