Where Did Auto Innovation Begin?

Which came first, the technology or the push by the auto industry?


As far as how the current wave of electronic innovation started happening in the automotive industry, the genesis is likely multi-faceted.

During a recent conversation, Cadence Fellow Chris Rowen recalled that there was an underlying recognition that the big opportunity to add value to a vehicle came from electronic systems and a recognition that there was a theoretical capability, for example, with vision systems that might be exploited. “But they then started getting practical and figuring out how to make it work, and started to implement some of these advanced safety systems. They started out very high end and relatively low resolution because they were expensive and not very effective but they discovered that more than at any time in the history of these automobile platforms, they could start riding the innovation curve — both Moore’s Law and the even fiercer rate of innovation that you see characterized in mobile electronics and consumer electronics over the last decade where the computational capabilities, the ease of use in software could come to bear.”

Further, the DARPA Grand Challenge initiated a decade ago centered on autonomous vehicles had an inspirational quality. “Of course, people in the automotive industry were thinking somewhat about that,” he continued, “but if you have examples where a small team of academic researchers can start to show these really amazing vision systems, they recognized that it was possible, they realized that with their much more significant engineering budgets they could do things that were really industrial strength and they recognized that there was a potential transformation in the car space.”

Also, the rise of the hybrid and electric vehicle movement showed that, “coolness in cars didn’t just come from the throatiness of the sound of the engine — it wasn’t just about being a muscle car, it was about being smart. That was a watershed where people were saying, ‘Let’s get creative with all the things we could do with vehicle to vehicle communications, with cloud-based services, with autonomous driving, with vision-based systems, with doing real artificial intelligence in the car — as well as providing a much richer driver and passenger experience,” Rowen offered.

There has been a sea change, partly driven by external factors catching up with automotive, and the automotive people saying there’s a breakout opportunity here in the nature of what it is to be a car. In any case, it is an interesting time to be watching the industry.

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