In all my years as a tech journalist, I’ve rarely been witness to a story as interesting as what is happening in the automotive sector. What could be more fascinating than the race to move beyond today’s gas-powered cars with all-too-human drivers at the wheel?
Will young people, the so-called Generation X drivers, embrace autonomous driving and EVs? Will the concerns about safety, pollution and natural resources contribute to the push for EVs and the ADAS technologies?
And yes, national governments are all competing to make sure that their domestic automotive industries take a pole position.
GF has a lot going for it in automotive. When I moved to Austin in 1998 and started covering Motorola’s automotive semiconductors, I found managers very positive about the support from Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd., now a part of GF. And having a fab in Dresden, located nearby Europe’s leading automotive OEMs, is another plus.
To capitalize on its advantages, GF is packaging them together in a new automotive-focused platform, AutoPro™. The goal is to make sure customers have all of the foundry’s automotive technology solutions and manufacturing services available under one roof, enabling customers to quickly obtain quality certifications and minimize their time-to-market.
There is little doubt that the efforts to develop ADAS and EV technologies are fast moving. Mark Granger, vice president of Automotive Product Line Management at GF, predicted at GTC 2017 that by 2020 there will be “a couple hundred thousand fully autonomous cars” on the road.
“Over the next 10, 20, 30 years, autonomous cars have the chance to really save lives, and provide mobility for older drivers. Statistically the loss of life around the world (from auto accidents) is equivalent to losing a 747 (load of passengers) a week. That is a staggering statistic. If we can resolve the ADAS safety challenges, we will be doing something for the world.”
To get there, Granger presented a long list of technology challenges, ranging from lidar to image processing to automotive-use 5G. And on top of ADAS, he noted the advances in electric vehicles that are likely to come in parallel.
Automotive, Granger said, represents a “slew of opportunities, including sensors around the car, so the car can see and understand and react to the world around it. A car will become a data center on wheels. And much of that processing capability will be located in the car, because no one wants to be in a car that depends on a (wireless) link to drive, even in a parking garage.”
Sanjay Jha, the CEO of GF, spoke about the demands that ADAS systems place on the sensors, radar and ICs to engage in “real-time management.”
Noting that a car traveling at 70 mph, or 100 feet per second, must be able to see obstacles, make a decision, and engage the brakes, all within a distance of 100 feet, Jha said the ADAS systems must be able to do “an enormous amount of computation within a millisecond.”
An ADAS-enabled car will include sonar and as many as 16 cameras per car. “The car must be able to take braking action while taking in data from the cameras. It will drive consumption of square kilometers of silicon in the industry, and bring in changes from Von Neumann architectures to distributed computing. This will be a huge and powerful driver for the semiconductor industry.”
22FDX® technology is aimed squarely at these ADAS-enabled cars, with Fab 1in Dresden, Germany and, later, Fab 11 in Chengdu, China positioned to supply automotive-use ICs.
Granger noted that for automotive lidar, GF is working with customers on both silicon germanium- and CMOS-based lidar solutions. “We are working in Fab 1 on 22FDX and SiGe for long-range radar, 40nm CMOS or 22 FDX for short-range, and 28nm or 22nm for camera sensors. The controllers for power windows and others are on our mature nodes, and of course, with the advanced nodes we support the very hefty processing elements that will go into cars for centralized control.”
Overall, the total available market (TAM) for automotive ICs will grow from $35 billion now to $54 billion by 2023. The ADAS content will grow by a 20 percent CAGR, driven by sensors and processing power, while analog and power still retain a majority of the market.
“GF has a wide range of capabilities and can serve every one of these markets,” Granger said.
It will be interesting to watch the role played by China, a nation with a major air pollution problem. China’s government is steering urban consumer toward EVs by reducing taxes and easing the difficult bureaucratic path to getting a car license.
The race is on to see which companies, and which countries, will take the lead in tomorrow’s connected car market. With GF’s experience at its major fab sites, its diversity of technologies, and the new AutoPro platform, it appears to have the right tools to help customers win this most exciting competition.