As the amount of electronics in automobiles continues to increase, it is becoming more common to hear a vehicle referred to as a “computer on wheels.” To that end, innovation occurs at the intersection of automotive and microelectronics so that leveraging synergies and contemplating joint initiatives becomes crucial in shaping the future of both fields. In this two-part article, we will discuss the current trends in the automotive industry, which are to a large extent driven by microelectronics, and will reflect on the transition from “just the vehicle” to “the mobility ecosystem.”
SEMI encourages its members to partner in seizing opportunities in safe, efficient, and convenient mobility solutions. Before diving into specific opportunities that the automotive industry offers to electronics companies, we will start by taking a closer look at this sector and the current trends.
Automotive or Mobility? Shaping the New Ecosystem
The automotive industry and its supply chain of vehicle manufacturers and component suppliers has been evolving for decades around the sales of vehicles. The customer groups used to be fairly well established with individual consumers and commercial entities, the latter often as fleets. The automotive industry has grown in depth by vertically integrating design, manufacturing, sales, service, accessories, etc. More recently, the traditional players have also begun to venture into mobility services such as car sharing, showing their ambitions to become “mobility providers.”
The term “mobility” has been used increasingly instead of “automotive” for about a decade now. This reflects the more recent transition to creating businesses and functionalities around the sales of miles. In line with this, the industry’s perspective is also shifting toward use-cases and experience rather than just focusing on the vehicle or plain transportation. Much of this transition from “vehicles to miles” is driven by key trends that require massive use of microelectronics, in particular autonomous driving and electric vehicles.
One of the key questions to raise for SEMI members is: at which stages should the supply chains for the microelectronics and mobility industries interact with one another to shape the evolving ecosystem? In order to answer this question, we will examine the four main trends shaping the future of mobility represented in the acronym “ACES”: Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared.
ACES – Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared
These four trends, together with the broader transition from “vehicle to miles,” also include newcomers “disrupting” the industry and changing it for good. Basically, every mobility player, traditional or new, is taking ACES (or CASE) into consideration at the moment.
Autonomy: computers are taking over the task of driving from humans, first through advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and then at some point with complete self-driving. Following the levels of automation from zero to five, as defined by SAE International, the current market frontier is SAE Level 2, which means the vehicle can under certain situations (e.g. highway) drive itself but has to be monitored by the driver at all times. Many industry experts assume that artificial intelligence and computing power hold the key to higher levels of automation.
Connectivity: vehicles are increasingly exchanging data with a central hub and with one another through cellular, WiFi, satellite, etc. At present, there are mostly entertainment and convenience offerings on the market, but maintenance and safety functionalities are emerging. One key differentiation between solutions is whether connectivity is “built-in” with embedded OEM solutions, “brought-in” (e.g. smartphone apps independent of vehicle or dashboard navigation systems), or “tethered” (e.g. smartphone used as communication gateway).
Electrification: traditional mechanical and fossil-fuel-powered vehicle driveline components are increasingly being replaced by electrical components. The spectrum includes hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), plug-in HEV (PHEV), battery-based electric vehicles (EV), and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCV). The transition from traditional to electrified driveline technology requires more and more diverse electronics, such as more control systems, sensors and high-voltage systems. Ultimately though, the transition requires fewer systems, i.e. ignition, injection and multiple other systems being replaced by high-voltage power electronics and battery monitoring.
Sharing: a growing number of consumers are seeking convenient access to mobility to get “from A to B” while viewing vehicle ownership as a burden rather than a benefit. Typical forms of this trend include car-sharing, ride-sharing, ride-hailing, micro-mobility, and micro-transit. Mobile computing enables much of the convenience that shared mobility offers, such as instant access, competitive and convenient payments, and flexible work opportunities (i.e. “gig economy”). Therefore, electronics, connectivity, and computing all play an important role in this trend.
SEMI as the Natural Convener for Industry Exchange and Progress
Clearly, for all four of the ACES trends, microelectronics play a crucial role in driving mobility innovation and making future solutions safe, efficient, and convenient. Based on this, mobility represents one of the largest opportunities for semiconductors: by 2025, a projected 14% of all integrated circuits produced globally will go into vehicles. As the trade association representing the complete microelectronics manufacturing and design supply chain, SEMI is positioned as a natural convener of experts for cross-industry and pre-competitive exchanges with the automotive supply chain. This positioning led to the foundation of the Smart Mobility initiative at SEMI, in part, to facilitate collaboration across these increasingly interdependent supply chains. The second part of this blog will present opportunities for electronics based on the ACES trends in the automotive industry, along with an overview of the Smart Mobility initiative.
 © SAE International from SAE J3016™ Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles (2018-06-05), https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j3016_201806/ (retrieved 05/5/2020)
 Source: IC Insights
Bettina Weiss is Chief of Staff and Global Smart Mobility Lead at SEMI. Sven Beiker is Smart Mobility Consultant at SEMI.