The total cost of electronics and semiconductor devices in a car is indication of how advanced is the car. The automotive is getting automated in multiple aspects of its operation and usage. The automation is powered by IC chips, power switching semiconductor devices and sensors including MEMS. This writer recently had a brief chat with Bipin Pande, Technical Marketing Manager, Automotive products group, STMicroelectronics, a world's 2nd ranked automotive electronics devices company which is supplying processor, sensor and power semiconductor devices to automotive electronics market. Below are the some of the trends explained by Bipin Pande.
Amount of silicon in car and two wheelers:
Bipin Pande: Total electronics in the car basically used to be in the range of $5-$8 (long time back). The situation is changing, even in the entry-level cars people are demanding power windows, more and more infotainment, there is a demand for ABS, airbag. This all providing more room for electronics. In Europe, in my opinion - the semiconductor content in a car is around US$ 400 to 500. In India it is in the range of US$ 50, in China it is around 250 US$. So this means that electronics will increase in fourwheelers and also in two-wheelers. Two wheeler market should not be ignored.
In Europe, in 80s and 90s vehicles were using electromechanical relays, now it is completely changed (they have replaced electromechanical relays with solid-state relays). The same trend now we are seeing in India.
On the trends in electric/hybrid car market:
Bipin Pande: We are seeing more scope for hybrid cars. So people are talking about controlling electric motor rather than controlling gasoline engine. Electronics to play important role to manage and control the power including battery management.
The trends in usage of microcontrollers in automotive embedded systems:
Bipin Pande: STMicroelectronics is offering dedicated complete range of microcontrollers from 8-bit and 32-bit for automotive electronics. We have dedicated manufacturing facility exclusively for automotive product line. High-end electronics such as engine management, safety systems, infotainment systems need 32-bit systems as of now. If customer wanted to replace old mechanical systems such as relays using small modules, 8-bit microcontrollers are used. But the share of 32-bit microcontrollers in cars is growing rapidly.
System in Package (SiP) trend:
Putting microcontroller, sensors such as MEMS, and power semiconductors in a single package for some specific applications in automotive is also a happening trend. STMicroelectronics is supplying a range of such system in package (SiP) products for automotive systems.
On the trend of media streaming inside the car:
Bipin sees due to growing usage of smart phones, cars may need just display panel and the interface. What the technology required is streaming the media from smart phone to display panels both to the driver and co-passengers. ST going to leverage its strength in set-top box chip design in this market.
On the vehicle to vehicle(v2v) communication technology:
Bipin Pande: It is really nice, it will improve few worst-case situations happening in roads, basically in India where you know lot of accidents are happening due to rash driving. Still the vehicle to vehicle communication is in design phase, lot of things need to be done before making it failproof.