On the heels of International CES 2014 is the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit (aka the Detroit Auto Show in the press). The Auto Show has always been popular with the wider media, competitive scoops (or snoops) by automotive OEMs, and of course during the second week, the public. This year there is particular energy and excitement as the Industry and Press Preview time comes to a close and the doors soon open to the public.
Ready for new
Traditionally the semi and electronics industry would not give much weight to the outlook for the automotive industry and the advances on display in Detroit. Auto electronics were considered a niche market, garnering important market points, but not able to compete with traditional consumer electronics (CE) devices like the PC, then the tablet or smartphone. But no longer is auto a niche market. Recall the front-and-center Intel device display last week at International CES 2014 – a connected car. In fact, you really couldn't escape the dominant appearance of automotive semi and auto infotainment solutions at CES.
Auto OEMs recognize the changing tide in what their consumers want, and right nowt, even at once base-models, that is the Connected Car. As Bloomberg reported:
The number of cars connected to the Internet worldwide will grow more than sixfold to 152 million in 2020 from 23 million now, according to researcher IHS Automotive. […]
“People spend a lot of time in their car, so connecting their car to their life and making it seamless has got a lot of upside,” Alan Batey, head of GM’s Chevrolet brand, said in an interview. “It connects with people who previously, perhaps, hadn’t thought of Chevrolet as the brand for them.” […]
And this concrete statement as to the welded relationship between auto semi and auto sales:
“The car is becoming just another device in the Internet of things,” Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice-president of product development, said in an interview. “Increasingly, you must be a technology company to be in a leadership position in the auto industry.”
Auto infotainment in step with IoT
Not only were automotive solutions front and center at Intel's CES space, the automotive market held an important place for the major chip manufacturers in one way or another. Let's not forget the smaller solution architectures, displays, and software applications and of course the critical WiFi and connector solutions. There are few stops along today's semiconductor and electronics supply chain that automotive solutions are not present. That relationship is a tremendous positive for semi's 2014 growth prospects. Just as auto is hoping for another improved sales year, now there is a significant increase in the semiconductor content in each vehicle, directly translating into significant opportunities for similar sales strengths.
The entertainment and connectivity aspects aside, the informational component to auto electronics is gaining rapidly. The long list of various auto system enhancements include Traffic Light Alert systems by Audi, to BMW's version of automated driving, or Google Glass warning systems, and fuel efficiencies through electric vehicles (EVs), eco-systems and even lighter materials. These are but the tip of the growing number of solutions that cover functional safety and maintenance, assisted driver alert systems (e.g., distracted or drowsy drivers, lane departures, blind-spots, distance to objects, external cameras, etc.), hands-free controls, on-board touchscreen and gesture recognitions, seamless connectivity throughout the vehicle for devices and all passengers, intilligent navigation, and so forth. For auto semi, the investments in what the "Connected Car" can mean to purchasers has added up to a tripling in R&D spend by auto OEMs for the electronic content and system solutions. That has boosted the semiconductor industry and increased the attention and partnering relationships between the industries.
CES and the Detroit Auto Show are about forward thinking, but of course, they are also about the reality of the respective industries at that point in time. The fact that so much R&D has been spent to provide these glimpses into tomorrow while also providing new and viable solutions today demonstrates that our industries are in strong alignment and the market demand is rich in growth and deep in opportunities for new innovations.