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Self-Driving SoCs Are Becoming A Critical Gateway for IC Design Firms


In the era of increasing electric vehicle penetration and automotive electrification, the future of cars resembles smartphones on wheels, demanding substantial computing power for advanced autonomous systems. As a result, future vehicles equipped with high-end self-driving systems are akin to mobile data centers. With the growth rate of the consumer electronics market slowing down, Self-Driving System-on-Chip (SoC) has become a crucial avenue for IC design firms to expand.

TrendForce Insights:

  • Sluggish Growth in Consumer Electronics Market Spurs IC Design Firms to Focus on Self-Driving SoCs

With the deceleration in growth of mainstream consumer electronics products like smartphones and PCs, IC design firms are venturing into the automotive sector, with Self-Driving SoCs emerging as a key area of expansion. Key competitors in this space include NVIDIA, Mobileye, Qualcomm, Ambarella, and Horizon Robotics.

Qualcomm, with solutions spanning smart cockpits, ADAS, and V2X, showcases its advantage in entering the automotive sector after years of success in the smartphone market. To avoid sustained dominance by international giants in the Chinese smart cockpit market, Chinese companies such as Siengine Technology, Navinfo, Autochips, Semidrive, Huawei, Rockchip, and Unisoc are actively entering this market.

  • NVIDIA and Qualcomm Offer Broad Computing Capabilities, While Mobileye, Ambarella, and Horizon Robotics Bring Unique Strengths

NVIDIA and Qualcomm offer Self-Driving SoCs with broad computing capabilities. Initially targeting Level 4 and above autonomous driving, NVIDIA has adjusted its focus to Level 3 and below due to regulatory delays. Its high-computing SoCs cater to the computing needs of both smart cockpits and self-driving systems, achieving a “cockpit-and-drive integrated” approach.

Qualcomm’s products cover computing requirements from Level 1 to 4. Intel’s Mobileye emphasizes low power consumption and integrates image sensing hardware and software. Both Ambarella and Mobileye possess core computer vision technologies, while Horizon Robotics provides highly open platforms to developers, offering software development tools (AIDI) and cloud-based AI training platforms. Horizon Robotics is also poised to benefit from China’s domestic production plans.

  • NVIDIA’s Collaboration with MediaTek (Dimensity) is Crucial for Hardware-Software Integration

In May 2023, NVIDIA announced a partnership with MediaTek (Dimensity) to target the automotive market, with a focus on smart cockpits. NVIDIA concentrates on the main computing chips for in-vehicle computers and essential software, while MediaTek specializes in peripheral audiovisual entertainment and V2X communication systems.

In Dimensity Auto, NVIDIA’s GPU and software are integrated, enabling the development of smart cockpit solutions. However, the collaborative car SoC development between MediaTek and NVIDIA is expected to launch by the end of 2025, with mass production slated for 2026-2027, necessitating a wait-and-see approach for the results of this collaboration.

Currently, high-end vehicles have software lines of code (SLOC) exceeding 100 million lines, more than double that of a PC. Vehicles with Level 5 self-driving systems in the future could potentially have over 1 billion lines of code. In the era of Software Defined Vehicles (SDV), hardware-software integration will be the key to competitiveness for manufacturers. NVIDIA, dominating the AI market with its CUDA platform, is well aware of this fact. Consequently, the results of NVIDIA’s collaboration with MediaTek (Dimensity) are highly anticipated.

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