Emboldened by advances in self-driving and Internet of Vehicles (IoV) technologies, Taiwan’s microelectronics sector is investing heavily in manufacturing processes and equipment as engines of innovation and growth for autonomous driving, the world’s next market goldmine. But breaking into the self-driving vehicle industry can be an uphill struggle. Semiconductor players bent on securing their piece of the potentially massive market must know how to navigate the automotive industry’s unique ecosystem of suppliers, not to mention its lofty standards for safety and reliability.
To explore opportunities and challenges in the automotive semiconductor market, SEMI recently organized Mobility Tech Talk – a gathering of invited professionals from Strategy Analysis, Yole Développement, Renesas, X-FAB and IHS Markit to examine the evolution of sensors for autonomous cars, advanced driver-assisted system (ADAS) applications, and new energy vehicles (NEVs) in China. Nearly 200 participants exchanged in-depth, forward-looking insights and perspectives as the event successfully reinforced connections among different segments. Here are four key takeaways from the event.
Lidar: The hottest sensing technology for smart automotive
Lidar, mmWave radar, cameras and inertial measurement units (IMUs) are the most important sensing devices for autonomous cars. As sensor and high-speed computing technologies mature, 2018 may mark the beginning for an era of autonomous cars, with 350,000 self-driving vehicles expected to hit the road by 2027. But before a single car takes to the roadways, self-driving technology must become expert at monitoring a vehicle’s environment.
That’s where Lidar, the hottest of all sensing technologies and the key to the holy grail of safe self-driving, comes into the picture. Lidar’s versatility supports multiple essential functions such as mapping, object detection and object movement, but mass production is still impossible due to its high cost. What’s more, technical issues must still be sorted out with solid-state lidar, mechanical lidar and MEMS. Both startups and traditional tier-1 semiconductor players have aggressively invested in related research and development, all hoping to pre-position themselves for the new opportunity.
Smart automotive sets new quality and safety standards
As cars become smarter, so too must silicon. Chips must support vastly more data generated by in-vehicle connectivity, ADAS, electrification, autonomous driving and a multitude of other functions that rely on advanced automotive electronics components. Demand for smarter silicon is prompting Taiwan companies to directly tap the automotive chip market or serve as OEMs for major automakers.
With quality and safety top priorities for automotive applications, in-vehicle semiconductors must meet strict requirements across areas including vehicle control, robustness, liability, cost and quality management to conform to the automotive specifications necessary to securing certifications. Smart silicon must also pass all AEC-Q liability standards promoted by automakers in North America, and score “zero defect” for the ISO/TS 16949 Automotive Quality Management System.
China’s new energy vehicles to fuel semiconductor growth
To promote NEVs and thus reduce fuel consumption by cars with internal combustion engines (ICEs), late last year the Chinese government introduced the Measures for the Parallel Administration of the Average Fuel Consumption and New Energy Vehicle Credits of Passenger Vehicle Enterprises. With China the world’s largest market for NEVs, the policy is forcing automakers in Japan, the U.S. and Europe to accelerate moves towards NEVs that, in turn, will fuel growth in the semiconductor and automotive battery industries. NEVs in China are expected to number 2 million by 2020 before more than doubling to 4.9 million by 2025. Today, most cars still run on ICEs as environmentally friendly motor drives are still under development. In unit shipments, motor drives are expected to exceed ICEs by 2025.
Cross-field collaboration is the key
The rise of smarter, fully autonomous vehicles – a disruptive “Car 2.0” – is unlikely to happen overnight. The global automotive semiconductor market will continue rapid growth, with safety and powertrain applications driving the strongest chip demand. Meanwhile, automakers are focusing more on innovations from startups and non-traditional suppliers, and some have even started developing their own IP and solutions. These paradigm industry shifts are diversifying the automotive supply chain into a cross-domain collaborative network of suppliers, pushing the closed, one-way automotive supply chain into lesser relevance. In the near future, rivals and partners may become indistinguishable as traditional turf wars begin to wane.
As ADAS and autonomous cars evolve, and the era of electric cars nears, automotive semiconductors are rising as the engine of growth for the global semiconductor industry. The automotive semiconductor market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.8 percent, reaching US$48.78 billion by 2022.
To help the semiconductor and automotive industries thrive in the era of self-driving vehicles, SEMI has established the Smart Automotive special interest group, a platform for better connecting elite professionals from the microelectronics and automotive sectors. Focusing on trends and innovation in the global autonomous semiconductor industry, the SEMI Smart Automotive SIG promotes industry development and cross-domain collaboration so members can create more business opportunities.