Memory Driven: GDDR6 in Automotive

By Aaron Boehm - 2018-07-24

We are witnessing a revolution in the automobile industry. This revolution is not being driven by traditional geographical automotive centers like Detroit. It is being driven by startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Consumers expect their car to be an extension of their digital world. In-vehicle infotainment systems are becoming more immersive and options like 4K displays and speech recognition are demanding more hardware resources. Advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) capabilities are accelerating to the point where cars will start to resemble a super computer on wheels. From a hardware perspective these advancements have a commonality: an insatiable appetite for memory bandwidth.

One of the most compute intensive functions of the future car is L4/L5 ADAS. Industry estimates for memory bandwidth requirements cover a wide window depending on system architecture. In addition to varying architectures, algorithms are continually evolving making it difficult to determine exact bandwidth requirements for systems in development. Current industry opinion is that L4/L5 ADAS will need between 300GB/s and 1TB/s of memory bandwidth.

Traditionally, automotive system designers have used LPDDR and DDR technologies for their volatile memory needs. These technologies have been designed to be compliant with stringent automotive specifications in conjunction with a stable ecosystem and supply chain. However, LPDDR and DDR devices are not keeping pace with the performance requirements being driven by compute intensive ADAS and frame buffers for high definition displays (see graph below). Micron is leveraging its experience and success in the graphics market to produce automotive grade GDDR6 SGRAM devices that offer significant performance advantages over the LPDDR/DDR alternatives.


Figure 1: Bandwidth vs. Number of DRAM Devices

Prior generations of GDDR memories were the mainstay memory technology of choice for GPU vendors and were focused exclusively on the graphics market. Applications outside of graphics and game consoles could not take advantage of the significant performance advantage provided by GDDR due to the lack of necessary system building blocks. Micron worked with key industry partners to develop a comprehensive ecosystem for GDDR6. The GDDR6 solution includes:

  • Micron – GDDR6 Memory
  • Rambus – PHY IP
  • Northwest Logic – Controller IP
  • Avery Design Systems – Verification IP

When choosing a memory technology, automotive designers need to weigh several metrics against system requirements. Performance, power, form factor, density, and cost are all important factors to consider. LPDDR is well suited for applications that require a small memory footprint and where low standby power is critical. DDR offers a good mix of features with configurations that allow for very high capacity systems. If performance sits at the top of the priority list, GDDR6 is in a class of its own. GDDR6 devices are compliant with Micron’s industry leading automotive qualification and test processes and have been designed and qualified to operate reliably in harsh environments. Micron’s GDDR6 SGRAM will play a significant role in enabling the technologies that will define the future car.

Allen Holmes

Aaron Boehm