The North American International Auto Show (aka, The Detroit Auto Show) will be coming to a close this weekend after a busy couple of weeks and so many product unveilings and exciting new options and features in the latest line-up of vehicles that it is hard to know where to start.
89% growth anyone?
How do you accept a figure such as 89% growth for electronics in today's economy? It comes back to the critical element of increased safety legislation that mandates features squarely based in electronics. The latest of these legislative mandates is the US requirement for rear-view cameras and displays in vehicles by 2014. While rear-view cameras have been an add-on feature in personal vehicles for a few years, the significant increase in safety and avoidance in accidental death or injury has now moved this from a luxury feature to one that will be standard by 2014. Given the US adoption of this legislation, it will not be long before the European Union (EU) and other countries make similar requirements of auto manufacturers.
The resulting growth, as reported by IHS iSuppli, for the TFT-LCD panel sector is 89% growth from 2012 to 2016, with the market booming from 61.7 million units to 116.8 million, respectively. "Each year during the forecast period will enjoy double-digit growth ranging from 15 to 23 percent, with shipments crossing the hundred-million-unit mark in 2015," according to the same report.
As CES underscored the essence of feature improvement is chip improvements, the Detroit Auto Show has certainly showcased how the latest chips and electronics components are able to improve the driving experience. Not just in terms of improved and dramatically increased fields of vision made possible through on-board cameras and sensors that extend human sight to areas impossible to reach without electronics, but also in more subtle ways.
With safety centrally poised as one pillar of automotive manufacturers' focus, there are many applications for electronics. Notably, the increasing prominence and use for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are improving every engine and wheel safety aspect, many mandated, but still much available as feature adds that are being leveraged as brand and/or model differentiators. Whether it is the ability to stabilize vehicles, improve maintenance and repair before failures, or various lane-departure, road condition, traffic or other information that is presented to drivers, the ability of on-board electronics to dramatically improve vehicle safety continues to open for consumers and fleet vehicles alike.
After safety, it's about efficiency
Beyond the safety focus is the ever-present fuel efficiency improvements. Here again, the increased use of electronics to monitor, balance, and control engine function is truly astounding in the latest vehicles being showcased. With consumers and fleet vehicle owners keenly aware of increases at the gasoline pump, the ability to deliver fuel efficiency alongside of safety and luxury for the personal car market, is front and center at the show this year. No longer is fuel efficiency seen as handled by reducing the weight of the car and compromising on comfort. Instead, on-board computers are constantly monitoring and controlling most aspects of engine function to improve how that engine runs and reach higher MPG levels for drivers.
The open road ahead
One thing is clear, regardless of whether or not 2013 can repeat the solid 2012 revenue year for the auto industry, there is significant growth in automotive semi and electronics. These two industries are inextricably linked and after body designs, it is the electronics solutions that are really driving the next generation of automotive improvements as seen at this year's Detroit Auto Show.