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ARM enters driverless car race with latest design

Cara McGoogan
The company is expanding from chips for smartphones and household devices  - ARM Holdings

ARM Holdings is joining the race to create technology to power driverless cars, widely regarded as the next major frontier for tech companies.

Having provided chip designs largely regarded as being central to the smartphone revolution, ARM is today unveiling a new technology designed to be used in autonomous vehicles and machines such as robots.

"We’ve gradually evolved how we design our high end processors over the years but this is a fairly major step change in the way we combine them," said John Ronco, a product marketing head at ARM. "We think it will be revolutionary in the way it enables our customers to build their products and design their chips."

When applied to a product such as a driverless car the processor, called the DynamiIQ, will be able to guarantee that the vehicle reacts safely in the event of a failure when there is no driver to step in, ARM said.

"From a safety point of view what we have here is unique," he said. "We don't believe there is anyone else on the market that can do this well." 

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When the design of the processor is licensed by ARM's customers it will mark the first time that top-end chips can be certified to the highest level, Ronco added. 

ARM isn't the first microchip firm to set its sights on autonomous vehicles. Intel last week announced a record-breaking deal to acquire self-driving company MobilEye for $15.3bn (£12.5bn). The purchase adds to Intel's arsenal software that helps autonomous cars navigate and systems that prevent collisions. Earlier this year Intel launched its own chip designed to power driverless vehicles.

ARM's new chip could also help the company challenge Intel in the fruitful data centre and server market. 

Fitted in artificial intelligence and machine learning devices, ARM's new processor, will also be able to improve performance and efficiency, leading to cheaper products and longer battery lives, the company said. 

"It will be able to process much faster and more efficiently than currently available processors," said Ronco.

When used alongside ARM's software the chips could be 50 times better at undertaking AI tasks within three years, he added. 

ARM's microchip designs are licensed by tech giants including Samsung and Qualcomm, and used in around 85pc of the world's most sophisticate smartphones. The British technology company, which delivers around a billion units a month, sold to Japan's SoftBank last year for £24bn. 

SoftBank this month announced it will sell 25pc of its stake in ARM to its $100bn technology fund, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.  

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