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 a steep uphill climb. Semiconductor players hungry to secure 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 experts from Strategy Analysis, Yole Développement, Renesas, X-FAB and IHS Markit who examined 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 helped forge stronger relations among various market segments. Here are four key takeaways from the conference.
Lidar: The Hottest Sensing Technology for Smart Automotive
Lidar, mmWave radar, cameras and inertial measurement units (IMUs) are critical sensing devices for autonomous cars. With sensor and high-speed computing technologies maturing at their current pace, some 350,000 self-driving vehicles are expected to hit the road by 2027. But before a single autonomous vehicle 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. The problem is that mass production is still impossible due to the technology's high costs. 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 manufacturers are aggressively investing in related research and development in hopes of fulfilling lidar's promise and seizing the market 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 an array of other functions that rely on advanced automotive electronics components. With demand for smarter silicon surging, Taiwan semiconductor companies are turning to the automotive chip industry for expertise and serving as OEMs for major automakers.
Quality and safety for automotive applications is paramount. In-vehicle semiconductors must meet strict requirements for vehicle control, robustness, liability, cost and quality management to meet the automotive specifications necessary to securing certifications. Smart silicon must also pass all AEC-Q liability standards promoted by North America automakers 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 reduce fuel consumption of 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 surpass ICEs by 2025.
Cross-field Collaboration is Key
The rise of smarter, fully autonomous vehicles – a disruptive Car 2.0 – is unlikely to happen overnight. Rapid growth of the global automotive semiconductor market will continue, 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 to develop 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 emerging 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.
For its part, the SEMI Smart Automotive special interest group connects professionals from the microelectronics and automotive industries. The group promotes the semiconductor industry's development of automotive technologies and cross-domain collaboration to help drive autonomous vehicle innovation.