Five Companies Collaborate on RISC-V

Bosch, Infineon, Nordic, NXP, and Qualcomm are investing in a joint venture to advance RISC-V. Initially focusing on the automotive industry, the venture could address RISC-V’s fragmentation and accelerate its adoption.
Joseph Byrne
Joseph Byrne

Bosch, Infineon, Nordic, NXP, and Qualcomm are investing in a joint venture to advance RISC-V. Based in Germany, the unnamed and yet-to-be-formed organization will initially focus on automotive applications but plans to address others in the long run.

The proposed consortium aims to accelerate the commercialization of RISC-V products, improving compatibility and providing reference designs. A further intent is to strengthen the semiconductor industry in the European Union. These goals indicate that the European automotive and semiconductor industries have had their confidence in UK-based Arm shaken but see RISC-V as presently too fragmented to be a viable alternative. The new venture could license RISC-V cores, but we do not expect it to do so.

In a blog post separate from this “Gang of V’s” press release, NXP’s CTO Lars Reger makes these concerns explicit. He cites SoftBank’s attempt to sell Arm to Nvidia as exposing the industry’s dependence on Arm and the advantages of an open-source alternative. At the same time, the blog acknowledges the higher cost of configuring such an alternative, the risk of fragmentation, and how the availability of high-performance RISC-V cores trails that of Arm.

The electronics industry has a long tradition of consortia operating alongside standards bodies to accelerate standardization and adoption. Although RISC-V is open source, it’s governed by RISC-V International. This nonprofit organization has 3,100 members and broad goals, resulting in an instruction-set architecture with dozens of extensions and numerous non-ISA specifications.

The Gang of V has the potential to address this fragmentation by stipulating only a few configurations relevant to the auto industry and offering a framework for compatibility testing. However, before it can have any impact, the group must complete formation and begin executing its plan. Then it must persuade others in the industry to follow its lead.

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