Virtualization on Microcontrollers

October 17, 2018 // By Stefaan Sonck Thiebaut, OpenSynergy
Virtualization on Microcontrollers
Embedded virtualization is a key technology for the future of automotive. Virtualization makes it possible to allocate the resources of a processor to multiple safely separated applications and operating systems. This is an effective approach to redesign the vehicle electronics architecture, take full advantage of the performance of processors and address the growing complexity of software-defined functions.

What was previously possible on application processors in infotainment and connectivity now also comes to the real-time processors and microcontrollers required in other vehicle domains. A new hypervisor platform opens up many opportunities for the next generation of increasingly automated cars.


Vehicles need continuously increasing processing power to run software-defined functions providing infotainment and connected services, assisting the driver, making the vehicle safer and managing energy sources.  The era where each new vehicle function required the integration of a new ECU (Electronic Control Units) is long over: vehicle manufacturers are designing new architectures whereby many software functions are integrated on more centralized, powerful devices, often called “domain controllers”.

Fig. 1: Several virtual machines can run different systems with different
AUTOSAR implementations or even non-AUTOSAR-compliant software. 

The various functions in the car have very different requirements on the capabilities of the underlying software and hardware platforms.  Software applications do not only require generic processing power but need specialized accelerators to generate high-resolution graphics, process camera-images or radar data and run artificial intelligence algorithms such as deep learning.  In addition, the vehicle functions have different requirements on functional safety (from ISO26262 “QM” to “ASIL-D”), boot-times and real-time behavior.

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