Chip giants rush to advance into the fast-growing auto market

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis combines many advanced technologies and uses chips to automate braking and blind spot detection. In addition, when the chip detects that the owner's arms are full of things, it will automatically open the trunk; even when the car's carbon dioxide concentration is too high, replace the fresh air.

There are thousands of microprocessors installed in Genesis, but only a handful of them come from companies that make chips for computers and mobile phones. Intel contributed a few, Qualcomm only provided a chipset, and Nvidia was not even included in it.

All three companies are racing to enter the automotive chip market. According to market research firm IHS, this market is expected to grow by 6.1% this year, with a scale of $27.9 billion. According to data released by Bloomberg Industries on June 23 this year, the average semiconductor cost per new car reached $329. In comparison, the iPhone 5's chip cost is less than $20.

However, the companies that supply chips to automakers are mainly a large number of small manufacturers that have established strong relationships with them a few years ago: the top five are Renesas Electronics, Infineon, STMicroelectronics, Denso and Freescale. According to Bloomberg Industry Research, the combined market share of these companies is about 43%. Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia are all in the top 10.

For the industry rookie, the key to entering the automotive field is that the safety and reliability standards of cars are much higher than computers and mobile phones. PwC's 2013 research in the semiconductor industry showed that the chip failure rate of consumer electronics products does not exceed 10%, while the failure rate of the automotive industry is zero. "We don't test betas on products, they have to be used from the start," said Mike O "Brien, vice president of product planning at Hyundai America. "We can't say," This place is a bit problematic."

In the automotive industry, integrated circuits must withstand temperatures ranging from -40 to 160 degrees Celsius. Because the car has a long life span of decades, suppliers can't eliminate a generation of products in just one year, like Qualcomm in the smartphone industry. “The experience of the automotive industry is not a day's work,” said IHS analyst Luca De Ambroggi.

Consulting firm Accenture (79.24, -0.50, -0.63%) last December's research showed that in-vehicle technology is the main consideration for today's 39% of car buyers when buying a car. In comparison, only 14% of car buyers will first Consider traditional automotive performance parameters. Consumers expect their cars to maintain the same speed as smartphones, tablets and notebooks, but it will take years to solve some of the challenges of automated driver assistance. Modern O'Brien said the technology couldn't even distinguish between obstacles and steep slopes when the company used laser and camera guidance systems to help the driver reverse.

Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia executives said they are entering the automotive chip market. Nvidia executives told analysts at a recent earnings conference call that cars are the fastest growing segment of their mobile business and will continue to grow in the future. At the Nvidia Annual Conference in March this year, a demo version of the Audi A7 with Tegra processor was on stage. “Ultimately, every car will become a supercomputer,” said Danny Shapiro, senior director of corporate business at Nvidia.

As the leader in the smartphone chip market, Qualcomm said that the company has received orders from tens of millions of wireless modems from automakers. Kanwalinder Singh, senior vice president of Qualcomm's business development, predicts that by 2017, as many as 60% of cars will have cellular network connections, up from today's 10%. The company is also developing chipsets that offer multiple functions for cars, including cellular network connections. “We are gradually developing this business.” Singer said, “We understand that it takes a lot of effort in the early stages.”

Intel has listed BMW, Hyundai and Infiniti as customers, and has also established a research partnership with Ford on June 25 to jointly develop new applications for connected cars. According to market research firm VDC Research, Intel's car revenue in 2013 increased by 65%, but the total amount was only $51 million.

Elliot Garbus, Intel's vice president of automotive solutions, said the company plans to develop features to track the movement inside the car so that the driver can adjust the temperature and sound volume of the air conditioner with simple gestures. Jabbs said chip makers will face even greater opportunities as new features move from luxury cars to lower-priced models. “My goal is to increase my business,” says Jacobs. “We need to push it to the entry model.”

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