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Tuesday, 05 May 2020 18:24

COVID-19 Cuts into Self-Driving Chips, on Top of Crushing Car Sales

Written by Matt Hamblen, FierceElectronics

Index

Technology delays could include where a company was planning to introduce a new feature in 2021, but will delay deployment in a vehicle system for another model year. Or, it could be a semiconductor that was planned for roll out as a 7nm device will be held off longer to get more life out of an existing 14nm device, Amsrud said.

 

A separate survey of 22 top-level executives at global semiconductor makers found 27% said COVID-19 would have a negative impact on investment, growth and adoption of autonomous vehicles. Another 9% said the virus would have a positive impact on AVs, while 59% said the impact would be neutral.

 

The survey, conducted recently by KPMG and the Global Semiconductor Alliance, also found less negative impact of the virus on 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things applications than on AV.

 

IDC analyst Matt Arcaro said his company is planning to report in late May on what level of autonomy newly produced light-vehicles will have for each of the coming model years to 2024.

 

“Without vehicle manufacturing now, there will definitely be a a significant 2020 in-year impact to chipmakers,” he said. “I do think there likely be some slight residual impact in 2021. Based on what we can see now, I would expect that the long-term trajectory and growth story will remain consistent with what was expected pre-COVID-19.”

 

Arcaro was careful to say lower chip market demand and revenue doesn’t necessarily mean less investment in R&D for auto chipsets. 

 

“Automotive, because of its scale and volumes, will remain a key area for growth for chipset providers,” he said. “We are still very early days in the automotive growth cycle for high compute autonomy platforms.”

 

Ironically, COVID-19 might even speed up the market forces that compel chip providers to focus their auto strategy more narrowly, Arcaro added.

 

“Rather than focusing on a whole suite of AV chips, they may focus on just a subset of autonomy or look to form a business partnership or joint venture to de-risk some of the uncertain timelines and volumes for full driverless autonomy.”

 

Some experts are suggesting robot taxis will be more desirable to limit the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 (with no driver present to spread germs) in the future, but it isn’t clear that goal will quicken the pace of development.

 

“Robot taxis have long been put forward as the solution most appropriate for autonomy,” said Gartner analyst Michael Ramsey. “Those efforts won’t disappear, but they certainly will slow. Full autonomy will be pushed into more business-facing uses like mining, logistics, warehouse operations and other places where there is a good mix of needs and the potential for efficiency and cost savings.”

 

Ramsey said the longer trend is the autonomous market will become more diverse and not driven by the large scale of the auto industry, at least for really advanced autonomy. High-tech chips in vehicles will be focused heavily on ADAS, he predicted.

 

Gaurav Gupta, another Gartner analyst, said he hasn’t heard from leading auto chipmakers about postponing any of their launches so far.


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