MOSFETs are the 'actuators' of the electronic age. Most vehicle systems require at least one to drive a motor or solenoid. Given the wide usage, it is not surprising that the technology is rapidly advancing to deliver ever more efficient and reliable devices in the smallest package possible.
Probably the most technologically complex item most people own is the car on their driveway. According to a recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), semiconductor billings in the automotive sector would be approximately US$37.4bn in 2016, 10% of all semiconductor shipments.
The automotive sector would have the fastest growth, some 9.4% - driven by huge demand for cars in emerging economies as well as the growth in electronics content in cars. Further PwC analysis showed that semiconductors currently represent approximately one-third of the total car cost, but this is forecast to rise to half of the total cost by 2030.
Applications within vehicles fall broadly into two main categories, automation of existing functions and new applications made possible by advances in technology. Nowadays, basic functions such as locks, mirror adjustment, window operation, seat position or operating the sunroof are almost always powered as are the controls and vents in the climate control system - just a few years ago these would have relied on mechanical systems based on cables and levers.
As technology advances, cars are capable of becoming more aware of their environment and modern driver assist systems lessen the chance of accidents through systems such as automatic braking, lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control. Cars are becoming able to read road signs and able to communicate with the world around them - including the 'smart' infrastructure being rolled out on key routes in many countries.
Automotive electronics has always been considered a challenging discipline and that remains true today. The environment itself is harsh - increasingly, semiconductors are being deployed under-the-hood or in suspension systems where they encounter