Automotive Electronics’ Supply Chain Impact

Irvine, Calif. — Back-up cameras seem almost quaint today, even though the technology is just moving into the mainstream automotive market.

That's because there's a sense that technology is catching fire really quickly in automotive design, and not just at the high end. But what does this mean along the supply chain? We know automotive electronics is a red-hot market right now, but the standards and the technology requirements are changing quickly.

On the Drive for Innovation, we wanted to check the pulse of this segment, so we punched in the latitude and longitude for Broadcom and headed there.

We convened a panel of automotive experts to get their perspective on what's going on in the industry. Two big takeaways on open standards:

  • They are helping quicken the pace of automotive innovation.
  • At the same time, they are giving OEMs and car manufacturers an opportunity to move their R&D dollars into new and exciting areas.

The 34-minute panel — featuring Ali Abaye, Richard Barrett, Yongbum Kim, and Tim Lau — is embedded below, but what follows in the text are some highlights with links to the segments within the videotaped panel where they expounded on an idea or question. The complete panel session is embedded below.

First off was our discussion of Ethernet, which is rapidly becoming the de facto networking backbone in automotive designs. This has implications not only for reducing cabling weight in an automotive design but allowing design engineers to leverage the standard to plug in Ethernet-ready services inside the car, according to Abaye (1:29 to 6:50), who is senior director of marketing and networking infrastructure.

The question arises, then, is this the type of solution, given the relative low cost of an established technology such as Ethernet, that might get proliferated quickly from high to low-end vehicles? (6:55)

We then asked Barrett, who is product marketing director for wireless connectivity in the automotive sector, what trends he was seeing. The biggie? Wireless LAN leveraging the smartphone as the control device, Barrett said (starts at 9:21 and runs to 14:42).

Barrett went on to describe how the expected completion of the 802.11ac wireless standard will affect automotive design (starts at 10:31). The big application? Personalization of the car.

Driverless cars are getting a boost from Ethernet, but more so from wireless communications. You have microseconds improvement in the ability of a car to respond.

Passive to active safety
In fact, if you take into consideration that the automotive design cycle is five to seven years, engineers at this very moment are designing driverless car systems that will be introduced in model years at the end of the decade, according to Kim, who is senior technical director at Broadcom for automotive (17:00 to 20:00).

Lau, senior product line manager for automotive Ethernet, dove into existing designs that are happening now especially the shift from passive safety to active safety (20:01 to 21:25). In fact, at a higher level, the automotive industry is about to enter a period of explosive innovation, according to Lau (starts at 22:18).

Future options
Perhaps the biggest impact we will see in the coming years is how the adoption of technologies such as WiFi and Ethernet will free car makers to focus their R&D in other more pressing areas, Abaye said (starts at 26:24). But all this automotive electronics innovation may have a downside for drivers, according to Kim, who acknowledges that he loves to drive. He helped close our panel with a funny observation: (Starts at 32:31).

Here's the complete panel:


9 comments on “Automotive Electronics’ Supply Chain Impact

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    February 27, 2013

    The automotive elctronics definitely holds a great promise for the elctronic supply chain no doubt

    Just on a funnier side , I am imagining a picture where on the ever crowded roads in almost every city in the world , how will these driverless cars fare?  Will their computers be able to manuver their vehicles through the maze of the vehicles in front of them by cutting lanes na dsuch other tricks that the seasoned drivers do with ease?

  2. Brian Fuller
    February 27, 2013

    Yes, I'll think the driverless systems will be far safer and smoother than human-driven cars. Ideally, when all cars are networked, it will be an amazing system, but even well before that it'll be efficient and safe. 


  3. Taimoor Zubar
    February 28, 2013

    I think the best part about these driver-less cars is their ability to communicate with each other and be able to coordinate about the traffic situation and other variables. This is something that's extremely hard to achieve with manual drivers.

    February 28, 2013

    I believe mass market driverless cars are the way of the future but I shudder to think what the equivalent of the big blue screen will be in this multi dimensional car-human system?  I guess the fail safe will be the mother of all traffic jams.  Can you imagine the LA freeway in rush hour when the system malfunctions and just like every system ever invented… will fail at some point.

  5. elctrnx_lyf
    February 28, 2013

    The electronics are going to be major part of any automotive in future. With electric vehicles becoming more and more famous, the car will become an electronic product in future.

  6. Brian Fuller
    February 28, 2013
  7. itguyphil
    February 28, 2013

    I know I'm lazy sometimes, but I get nervous about the other drivers on the road. I can't imagine the panic I'd face knowing I'm not actually 'driving' the car and it's me that's being taken for a ride.

    Who knows, maybe I'm just being overdramatic?

  8. Brian Fuller
    February 28, 2013

    @pocharle, OK, try this scenario: Would you worry more about the driverless vehicle in the next lane or the 70-year-old grandmother/father texting while driving next to you (which my brother witnessed yesterday)…? 

    I know where I'd put my faith!

    ;  )




  9. itguyphil
    March 11, 2013

    Wow. I thought I've seen worse with a woman next to me putting on makeup (with the visor DOWN) on the interstate.

    But I think you know where my money would go! 🙂

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