Get on the fast-track to automotive system innovation with Texas Instruments

By Heinz-Peter Beckemeyer, Director, Automotive Systems, Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments

It’s probable that in your lifetime, you will drive or ride in a self-driving car. This car will almost certainly be loaded with electronic conveniences and safety devices to make your trip enjoyable, and it may well be an electric vehicle (EV).

How long before such vehicles are widely available is much debated, but both car manufacturers and technology suppliers are committed to making self-driving cars happen.

Self-driving electric cars merge two complementary technical developments with a lot of momentum behind them: autonomous operation and an afford- able EV with fast recharging and an extensive range. When you add in the ongoing trend to use advanced electronics to make traveling safer, more comfortable and connected, the result will be a revolution in trans- portation in just a few design generations.

It is easy to view self-driving EVs as the all-encom- passing dream – the pinnacle of the automotive market. However, those involved in vehicle manufac- turing know this dream is only possible via many small steps in technology development. Automated driving depends on scores of electronic systems for sensing, communication and control throughout the vehicle.

Electronic systems throughout the vehicle control the motor, powertrain, steering and suspension, as well as operating the dashboard instrumentation, navigation, entertainment consoles and speakers, cabin and exterior lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), automatic seats, windows and mirrors. Advanced electronics save weight, improve operation, increase energy efficiency and make cars safer, more comfortable and convenient. They are also essential to the gradual introduction of autonomous driving, the change from combustion to electric propulsion and the ongoing improvements to the travel experience.

The varied transportation market The worldwide production of cars and light trucks – more than 93 million units in 2016 – should exceed 105 million units in 2021, according to LMC Automotive. Today, market analyst firm Strategy Analytics says the average automobile contains about $324 worth of semiconductor components, pushing beyond $361 in 2021. A steady increase in electronic systems and components represents the fastest-growing automotive parts segment. While new feature introductions first appear in premium automobiles, they tend to migrate in a few design cycles toward mid-sized and then economy vehicles. In some cases, legislation or regulations speed up the technology dispersal to promote safety, energy economy or reduced emissions.


Figure 1

Figure 1: As global vehicle production and more electronic systems are added to vehicles, the average amount of semiconductor content per vehicle will steadily increase.

Although cars, SUVs and pickup trucks make up the vast majority of the transportation market and thus tend to drive innovation, other forms of transportation require advanced electronic technology as…

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