Chip manufacturers are going back to the future for automotive silicon

Where we're going, we don't need 5nm

Analysis Cars are gaining momentum as computers on wheels, though chip manufacturers' auto focus isn't on making components using the latest and greatest fabrication nodes.

Instead, companies that include Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Globalfoundries are turning back the clock and investing billions in factories that use older manufacturing techniques to make chips for vehicles.

The rapid digitization and electrification of cars has created a giant demand for smaller, more power-efficient auto chips, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research. He added that cars don't necessarily need the latest manufacturing processes, though, and many are still using analog-based components for various functions.

Some chips in cars today are made using the same process nodes used in 2005 to make PC chips, McGregor said, adding that many factors go into the optimization of chip packages, including the desired battery life of the vehicle, the maximum distance between charging and refueling, and the weight of the car.

That said, some cars are equipped with advanced chips, fabricated using newer techniques, to handle artificial intelligence, infotainment, and communications. But don't forget, car makers are also keen on advancing microcontrollers on larger process nodes for applications like braking.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. which makes cutting-edge mobile chips for Apple and Qualcomm, expects chips for cars to take on more manufacturing capacity in the future. The company is investing billions in factories, including one due to open in Japan in 2024, to make 22- and 28nm chips.

TSMC is investing $100bn in new factories over the next three years to address chip shortages in areas that include cars.

"TSMC's participation in the global automotive IC market is only about 14 per cent, and we are doing our part to support our automotive customers with what they need. However, we cannot solve the entire industry's supply challenge," TSMC CC Wei said on an earnings call last week.

Until last year, the booking window for car makers on automotive chips was 12 weeks, but that has now been extended to at least 12 months, IHS Markit said in a recent study.

"OEMs are even reportedly exploring booking capacity at tier-2 foundries such as TSMC or GlobalFoundries over a year in advance, a move that is in stark contrast with previous practices," the research firm said.

Intel will commit foundry capacity for automotive customers at the Ireland fab campus, Intel spokesman Jason Gorss told The Register. The company last month said it was investing €5.5bn to expand factory operations in Ireland.

"The Ireland facility is capable of supporting a range of advanced process nodes. We are currently talking with automotive customers to determine the best technologies to address their product needs now and in the future to develop our roadmap," Gorss said.

Semiconductors will be about 20 per cent of the bill-of-materials of a car by 2030, growing from 15 per cent in 2025, and 4 per cent in 2019, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said during at the iAA Mobility keynote last month. Intel estimates the market for auto chips to be $115bn in 2030, compared to $50bn this year.

Globalfoundries has filed for an IPO with the goal to expand manufacturing plants in Asia, Europe and the US. The company is expanding a manufacturing operations in Dresden, Germany, which is close to automakers. The factory is uses CMOS and FDX process technologies on nodes from 55nm down to 22nm.

"We have developed many technologies that are well-positioned to be the semiconductor backbone of fully autonomous vehicles, such as our FDX platform for mmWave RADAR applications and SiGe for battery management," the company said in a prospectus.

FDX is an optimized enhancement for manufacturing more power-efficient chips. The feature became available this year in Dresden, Germany for advanced communication chips. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021