Can Startups Solve Today’s Automotive Challenges?

As automotive technology is now driving instead of following consumer electronics trends, there are more opportunities than ever for new market entrants.

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When asked about the most pressing concerns today amongst automotive customers, some leading industry suppliers had the following to say:

Samer Hijazi, senior design engineering architect, IP Group at Cadence: How fast can I deploy?

Ron DiGiuseppe, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager at Synopsys: Our customers are very broadly requiring ISO26262 safety compliance in our products as well as our customer’s customers products.

Robert Bates, Chief Safety Officer in the embedded software division of Mentor Graphics also sees customer demand for ISO 26262 compliance along with anything that will give them a leg up because as they are designing their next platforms, which are going to have to have advanced ADAS and autonomous capabilities, how are they going to get a leg up on their competition? What can we do to help them do that?

Richard Barrett, senior director, product marketing at Cypress: For us, we’re in the RF space so it is about interoperability between devices. The car being one device, if you are connecting to an access point, you have to be interoperable to deal with both interoperability issues and concurrency issues because they are trying to manage so many application simultaneously — it’s a huge challenge. Whether it is WiFi and Bluetooth, WiFi and LTE, I don’t know where 5G is going to go in the future — there will always be challenges when you’re getting at the hardware communication layers.

And when you look at the automakers, and the speed at which they are known to move — slow — It seems likely there is a lot more room for startups. How the automotive ecosystem evolves going forward will be very interesting, particularly in the area of electric vehicles (EVs).

“You’re seeing EVs creating huge opportunities for new cars because it’s not about the internal combustion engine anymore, which is very advanced technology over the last hundred years — it’s about battery management technology, which the consumer guys have been doing long before cars (at least from a Lithium Polymer standpoint); and motors, and so forth. Obviously motors have been around for longer than the internal combustion engine so it makes it accessible to new companies — whether Tesla, NextEV is now popping up, many others along with probably a dozen Chinese companies that are looking at EVs because they’re breaking out of the paradigms of the past, and it makes a market opportunity,” Barrett observed.

In addition, Charlene Marini, VP for competitive strategy at ARM noted that in general, there is a lot of innovation. “There are startups in China, startups in the U.S., for different vehicle components. Everything from how to have better cooling the vehicle because compute performance is going to need to rise rapidly, and the power constraints for these compute platforms in the vehicle is not feasible today. Along with cooling systems, all the way through to applications and different business models of how to access the individuals in the car. There is a significant amount of innovation happening.”

Traditionally, at least for electronics, the auto industry has really followed what’s come out of consumer, Barrett reminded. For instance, they took the first AM radio, converted the power supply, and stuck it in the car. “Now, automotive is driving the technology. The MIP requirements, and MIPS with power requirements in automotive is far beyond anything we’ve seen in the military. For example, WiFi and Bluetooth, we always borrowed from what the mobile phone guys did — that departed about 18 months ago just because of bandwidth and concurrency requirements, we had to do things you never had to do in a mobile phone or a tablet because you have so many applications: you have living room applications, mobile/ecosystem applications — all these applications converging into one very large device called a car, and that’s creating huge challenges for the industry, but opportunities as well.”

Everything from audio processing, and how to filter out audio signals — it’s very different from a phone, Marini noted. Automotive providers are taking microphone concepts from mobile phones but adding a whole new layer of complexity because of the noise in the car. In the same way, Ethernet must deal with the noise in the car, adding a whole new level of complexity.

While the challenges are many, it equates to opportunities for providers throughout the automotive ecosystem, particularly those with novel solutions, and this seems like the perfect place for startups.

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