The semantics of "mobility" is widening as we increase the capabilities of what are now "connected cars." Mobile continues to be the growth word for the industry, and the scope of what "mobile" entails is still growing beyond smartphones and tablets. Mobility has extended to include wearable electronics for a gamut of purposes such as health and fitness, medical monitoring, and of course general consumer electronics like Google Glass and the anticipated next round of "smart watches" due out for the winter holidays. On another mobile front, automotive electronics is steadily increasing the amount of semiconductor penetration in any given vehicle. On the consumer side, there is a shift in the importance of automotive electronics that consumers look to as differentiators to compare automakers and models.
Automotive electronics drivers open new lanes
Throughout the summer, we have seen a number of automotive electronics and components released, alongside of variable reports regarding the health of the auto industry across various regions. Overall, automotive electronic forecasts are holding strong for on-board components. This positive outlook is supported across the expanding list of individual component types going into vehicles. The role of the car as a consumer electronic device and the importance of those electronics by consumers has meant that automotive electronics growth is no longer interwoven with safety mandates as primary drivers for growth waves; consumer demand is now a critical and strategic market factor.
DisplaySearch's forecast for automotive displays continues to hold true as we move into the third quarter. This year we have certainly seen the increase in consumer awareness of on-board electronics and a correlation in the increased demand for touchscreen and voice-activated controls through in-dash mounted displays for navigation, monitoring, and infotainment. These use-case demands have increased the functionality of automotive displays and, of course, required increased semiconductor content to provide the demanded content, connectivity, and information. This expansion of use-cases has also increased the sizes and quality levels of in-dash displays and the wider electronic content; together these differences are becoming central to consumer evaluation of car OEMs and their respective models.
Naturally, the marrying of smartphone and tablet mobility with wireless connectivity in the car is rapidly gaining speed. As iSuppli recently reported:
Revenue for wireless solutions in cars will reach a projected $1.17 billion this year, up a respectable 5 percent from 2011. While growth this year has moderated from the sizable double-digit increases of 2011 and 2012, continued expansion is assured in the years ahead. Expansions in the 8 percent range are expected during both 2014 and 2015.
The focus is naturally the support of the smart wireless devices (SWD) people have in the car, and the expansion of support for Bluetooth enabled devices to transfer data via WiFi. But the connected car is not just the demand of ever-connected consumers, further supporting embedded cellular solutions by OEMs. For example, as iSuppli points out, "European eCall mandates that require cars to automatically ring for assistance during a vehicular accident, telematics solutions based on a mobile device will not be compliant with basic eCall specifications. Embedded cellular, however, will work with eCall in case of a vehicle crash."
The connected car certainly hold considerable interests and strategic market opportunities for auto OEMs as well as those in the embedded and wireless sectors. Hands-free is one off-shoot of this feature, one that is increasingly going to be regulated and mandated, but similarly one that will likely become a standard feature in vehicles demanded by consumers. With the increased focus on automotive electronics, the increase in dedicated semiconductor designs for automotive use has been on the increase, including new research joint ventures for miniature System-in-Package (SiP) solutions, as reported by EETimes.
One question that is still far from being answered is the adoption of autonomously driving vehicles. EETimes just released an article considering the data surrounding the adoption of autonomous cars and found that the amount of variance is rather wide. However, the extent of what "autonomous driving" is varied similarly. While the forecasts are in the high double-digits for driver assisted technologies that may even support limited autonomous driving, fully-driverless vehicles are unlikely to gain a strong foothold in the automotive industry's market, at least at this forecasting moment.