Using Vulkan SC for Safety-Critical Graphics and Real-time GPU Processing

GPU-accelerated processing is vital to many automotive and embedded systems. Safety-critical and real-time applications have different requirements and…

GPU-accelerated processing is vital to many automotive and embedded systems. Safety-critical and real-time applications have different requirements and deployment priorities than consumer applications, but they often are developed using GPU APIs that have been primarily designed for use in games.

Vulkan SC (Safety Critical) is a newly released open standard to streamline the use of GPUs in markets where functional safety and hitch-free performance are essential.

NVIDIA helped lead the creation of the Vulkan SC 1.0 API and is now shipping production drivers on its NVIDIA DRIVE and NVIDIA Jetson platforms.

Deterministic GPU processing

Vulkan is a royalty-free open standard from the Khronos Group standards organization. It is the only modern, cross-platform GPU API. Launched in 2016, Vulkan is primarily designed for use in games and professional design applications on desktop and mobile devices using Windows, Linux, and Android. 

Khronos derived Vulkan SC from Vulkan 1.2, with the Vulkan SC 1.0 specification being released in March 2022. Vulkan SC defines the subset of the Vulkan API that is essential for embedded markets in order to reduce API surface area for streamlined implementation and testing. 

Vulkan SC also increases API robustness by eliminating ignored parameters and undefined behaviors, and enhancing detection, reporting, and correction of run-time faults. Vulkan SC enables predictable, hitch-free execution by moving pipeline compilation offline, and providing sophisticated functionality for managing static memory allocation and resource management with explicit synchronization.

For more information, see Vulkan SC: Overview – and how it is different from the Vulkan you already know.

Vulkan SC and the NVIDIA DRIVE automotive platform

The streamlined Vulkan SC API reduces the cost and effort of system-level safety certification to standards such as ISO 26262, a functional safety standard used in the automotive industry. Simplifying system certification enables manufacturers to smoothly deploy advanced graphics capabilities in driver assistance systems on the NVIDIA DRIVE platform.

For example, Level 2 and Level 3 AI-assisted vehicles require the driver to remain in the loop during vehicle operation. Safe visualization inside the cockpit and the digital instrument cluster is key to ensuring the human driver is aware of how the system is perceiving and reacting to the surrounding environment. 

The confidence view is a rendering of the mind of the vehicle’s AI and how it sees the world. It shows exactly what the sensor suite and perception system are detecting in real time using a 3D surround model. By incorporating this view in the cabin interior, the vehicle can communicate to its occupants the accuracy and reliability of the autonomous driving system at every step of the journey.

The ability to support such in-vehicle graphics safely and securely is what makes Vulkan SC critical to the next-generation intelligent vehicle experience. Production Vulkan SC 1.0 drivers are included in DRIVE OS, which shipped August 29, 2022.

Vulkan SC on the NVIDIA Jetson embedded platform

NVIDIA Jetson is the world’s leading platform for autonomous machines and other embedded applications. It includes Jetson modules, which are small form-factor, high-performance computers, the NVIDIA JetPack SDK for accelerating software, and an ecosystem with sensors, SDKs, services, and products to speed development.

Applications for Jetson-based systems typically do not require formal safety certification. However, many embedded and autonomous systems can directly benefit from the deterministic, real-time GPU graphics and compute acceleration provided by Vulkan SC. With these capabilities, the Jetson platform can support a broader diversity of applications.

The NVIDIA Jetpack 5.0.2 SDK released on August 15 2022 includes conformant, production Vulkan SC 1.0 drivers for the Linux OS.

Ongoing NVIDIA commitment to the Vulkan SC API

NVIDIA will continue to invest in the evolution of the Vulkan SC open standard API at Khronos. We are committed to providing conformant, production drivers on platforms such as NVIDIA DRIVE and Jetson.

Later in 2022, NVIDIA will also ship support for Vulkan SC in NVIDIA Nsight developer tools. Vulkan SC streamlines the open, cross-platform Vulkan API for deterministic GPU graphics and compute, enabling advanced applications and use cases on safety-certified and real-time embedded platforms.

Now, NVIDIA provides industry-leading support for this groundbreaking open standard, enabling GPU acceleration in new classes of products. Download the latest NVIDIA DRIVE or NVIDIA Jetpack releases with Vulkan SC drivers today.

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