The rapidly growing automotive semiconductor market relates to a huge change for the IC supply chain. Apart from the evident requirements for traceability and reliability, the sector is heading toward more inexpensive and simpler solutions while confronting the formidable challenge of automating driving in a complex world.
The need for lower cost and simpler automotive intelligence will possibly urge acquisitions to develop complete platform solutions that can be integrated in an easier way. This demand has already created a market for preconfigured test cars to save time and money for developers, and is urging Light Detection And RADAR (LiDAR) towards solid-state, lower-cost solutions.
The growth of the automotive electronics market provides a great opportunity for the IC supply chain to differentiate on specialty processes and quality for the high-volume automotive business with its long design cycles. This differentiation is a chance to reduce chip suppliers’ dependence on scaling volume for the mobile phone world with its short-cycle volatility of winning and losing sockets.
Scott Jones, principal, strategy, KPMG
He remarks that the rising demand for automotive ICs is also rejuvenating the 8 inch supply chain and driving opportunity for specialty products like compound semiconductor devices for power efficiency.
Providing supplies to the automotive market also relates to the addressing of automotive reliability requirements, which could be 10 times more rigorous compared to those for consumer devices. Simultaneously, the industry must uphold fast-paced development cycles needed for the diversity and volume of inexpensive IoT devices, handle the segmented supply chain for both the markets, and still distribute development costs. Automation of testing and updating huge amounts of embedded software in these automotive devices constitute another huge challenge for the supply chain.
“The more complete solution a company can put together, the more the automakers will gravitate to it. They want simplicity,” suggested Jones. Smaller companies will have to distinguish with IP and obtain a different IP provider to develop a broader platform, or be acquired and folded into a unified solution.
AutonomouStuff Helps Accelerate and Simplify Development of Autonomous Driving Solutions
AutonomouStuff is assisting in accelerating the development of these platforms. The company has transformed from being a sensor distributor into a supplier in the evolving niche of vehicles preconfigured with important interfaces for controls and sensors. Then, these interfaces can be tailor-made by combining various components for developers to test their applications.
AutonomouStuff offers developers a lineup of vehicle models pre-configured with the interfaces needed to add desired chips, sensors, and software to develop their autonomous vehicle systems.
Whether they’re major chipmakers or AI software startups, they don’t have a year to build their own vehicle platforms themselves for developing autonomous vehicle systems. In four to six weeks we can prepare a custom test car with selected sensors, enabling users to start testing their computer platforms and software. It’s faster and more cost-effective for us to supply the car with the needed interfaces.
Wolfgang Juchmann, VP sales and business development, AutonomouStuff
He remarks that developers are using nearly 300 AutonomouStuff vehicles in the field. AutonomouStuff customers have started transitioning from testing on one or two cars to testing on mini-fleets including 50 to 100 vehicles. Apart from preconfigured vehicles and sensors, the subsequent step will be to include more data intelligence services to assist with capabilities such tagging of data for training, stated Juchmann. AutonomouStuff already provides hardware for supporting Baidu’s Apollo open-source software stack and data set. Recently, the company was acquired by the Swedish holding company Hexagon to assist in the expansion.
CMOS Silicon LiDAR Nears Automotive Qualification
Inventions in the highly competitive LiDAR market, where increasing demand is driving the competition to build different types of solid-state devices, may also assist in reducing the cost of autonomous vehicles. Of the approximately 40 LiDAR suppliers, at least one, namely Quanergy, is taking advantage of the 32 and 45 nm foundry CMOS volume production.
The refractive index is modified by using voltage through the semiconductor stack, thereby controlling the optical beams’ phases and the ensuing interference patterns of light escaping the chip to rapidly steer the laser beam with no need for moving parts, quite similar to the phased array radar developed earlier by the researchers of the company.
Solid state LiDAR image with object recognition software.
To date, a majority of the small LiDAR units have been shipped to the robots, security, industrial automation, 3D mapping, and drone markets. However, Louay Eldada, Quanergy CEO who is another SEMICON speaker, stated that the company has also been winning automotive designs and anticipates that the automotive shipments would begin early next year, immediately after completion of automotive certification testing. “We can get design wins because standard CMOS production at TSMC makes us a known entity,” stated Eldada.
In order to avoid component misalignment, the company manufactures its own specialized packaging to secure the optical phased-array emitter, laser, detector array, phase control ASIC, and receiver readout ASIC at its plant in Silicon Valley or the facility of its automotive partner Sensata. With its software business, Quanergy provides an artificial intelligence (AI) perception program for LiDAR tracking and object recognition. The solution employs the people-tracker software acquired by the company from Raytheon.
This year, SEMICON West extends to three whole days of automotive electronics programming and features a Smart Transportation Pavilion.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by SEMI.
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