Semiconductor industry is moving towards automotive business
Wolfgang Helfricht, director of platform marketing from ARM’s Physical Design Group, puts the figures onto the table: Vehicles currently consume about 10 percent of the world’s semiconductor production, Helfricht wrote in a recent blog post. Given the demand of computing power, sensing capabilities and connectivity in tomorrow’s self-driving cars, this percentage will grow rapidly – experts like Helfricht estimate that it will multiply at a factor of 100 within the next ten years. And ARM processor cores are in most of today’s microprocessors, microcontrollers or SoCs of all types.
The specific requirements of automotive applications – advanced safety and security features, robustness, quick booting and, to an increasing extend, high number crunching capabilities – motivated ARM to adjust its product strategy to take this clientele more into account. “More of ARM’s products are being developed from the ground up with automotive applications in mind”, Helfricht wrote in his blog post.
The approach is not single sided. In the automotive industry, the cognition is growing that semiconductors are gaining a strategic significance for their own business. At the recent ISS Europe, the meeting of executives from the semiconductor industry in Munich, the automotive industry demonstrated its interest for the chipmakers through several presentations. “The automotive industry is a big game changer”, said Laith Altimime, president of chipmaker’s association SEMI Europe. Gerd Teepe, Director of Marketing for Globalfoundries, explained in which way the relationship between the automotive industry and the semiconductor makers has changed over the past decade. “Earlier, they [the automotive industry] regarded a semiconductor simply as a part that can just be bought at the most favorable conditions. Semiconductors were a topic for the procurement department, much like a screw or a nut. Today, the understanding is growing among car electronics designers that semiconductors are enablers for properties of the vehicles regarded as strategic, that semiconductors are a key component to determine the characteristics of their products.” For this very reasons, automotive companies like Audi, Daimler, and recently Volkswagen, establish strategic initiatives with semiconductor manufacturers to jointly develop chips.
In this business environment, ARM has announced the developed of a platform of dedicated automotive ARM Artisan Physical IP with features custom-made for the automotive market and taking into account functional safety standard ISO 26262 and AEC-Q100 as well as the TSMC 9000A quality requirements of ARM’s foundry partner TSMC.
Announcements like this will certainly be seen more often in the future. And likewise, the automotive OEMs will bid farewell from the belief that a semiconductor product is as replaceable as a simple screw.