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Year in Review: IP Vendors Race to Automotive

January 3, 2017

Author: Mike Demler

As sales of mobile devices decelerated in 2016, processor-IP (intellectual property) vendors—and the semiconductor industry overall—shifted their focus to emerging higher-growth opportunities. Automotive applications constitute the hottest market, driving processor manufacturers and IP suppliers to accelerate product development for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADASs) and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI).

The race to deliver the first self-driving cars creates new opportunities for processor-IP suppliers. Level 5 ADAS processors must reliably handle brake/engine/steering control in addition to new functions such as computer vision, deep learning, sensor fusion, path planning, navigation, and driving-policy execution. To perform all these functions, autonomous-driving systems will likely employ a combination of CPUs, GPUs, and DSPs, along with specialized deep-learning neural-network accelerators.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables market also offers great growth potential. Whereas mobile devices increased demand for high-performance 64-bit CPUs, IoT clients require low-power 32-bit CPUs that are more secure. The first wave of IoT devices recycled older-generation cores, but in 2016, several vendors introduced CPUs purpose built for this market.

Although the 3GPP’s timeline calls for a 2018 release of the first 5G specifications, followed by field trials beginning the following year, IP suppliers in 2016 started rolling out new cores targeting the next-generation designs. ARM and Ceva introduced CPUs and DSPs to handle 5G control- and data-plane tasks, which will require lower-latency and more-complex signal processing.

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