Texas Instruments (TI) has launched a new family of ARM Cortex-based microcontrollers (MCUs) for safety-critical transportation as well as industrial and medical applications. It said its Hercules platform is designed to protect against systematic failures, detect random failures, and provide the documentation needed to obtain ISO 26262 ASIL-D or IEC 61508 SIL-3 safety certifications, which should ease a significant overhead burden for application developers.
The Hercules family includes the AEC-Q100-qualified TMS470M, with performance up to 80 MHz based on an ARM Cortex-M3 core; the TMS570, also AEC-Q100-qualified, and capable of achieving the safety standards, with performance up to 180 MHz based on dual ARM Cortex-R4F floating-point cores, and the RM4x, also based on dual ARM Cortex-R4F floating-point cores in lockstep, with performance up to 220 MHz, for industrial and medical applications.
The 180 MHz TMS570 is fabricated on a 65 nm process and can be configured with up to 3 MB of flash memory compared with 2 MB for an earlier version with performance up to 160 MHz, fabricated on a 130 nm process. The new version supports Ethernet connectivity as well as CAN and FlexRay.
Hercules Safety MCU product line manager Dev Pradhan says the new MCUs implement safeguards in hardware to maximize performance and reduce software overhead. The TMS570 and RM4x both include a functional CPU and an identical “checker” CPU on a one-cycle delay. Comparing the outputs of the two cores ensures that both are executing the same instructions, thus confirming that the functional CPU is operating correctly. He adds that establishing a “safe island” on which all parts are known to operate correctly eliminates the need to run diagnostics elsewhere.
Pradhan says safety-critical applications are becoming more prevalent, and the need to protect against systematic and random failures and obtain system certification is increasingly important. For obvious reasons, that is good to hear.