Autonomous vehicles such as the one above offer a huge opportunity for electronics manufacturers.
Autonomous vehicles such as the one above offer a huge opportunity for electronics manufacturers.

Buying Trends: Auto Electronics

The rate of innovation in the automotive electronics industry continues to accelerate as vehicles edge closer to the self-driving Nirvana that all auto manufacturers are talking about and striving for.

From radar sensors that detect pedestrians and brake in time to avoid them, to engineered plastics that are tailored to fit sensitive electrical and electronic automotive applications, to artificial intelligence systems that continuously learn to discern and recognize their surroundings, the list of innovative electronics-based solutions being integrated into vehicles appears to be virtually limitless at this point.

In June, for example, Volkswagen announced that all of its Tiguan vehicles will include automatic braking as a standard feature. Driven by long-range radar, the functionality allows cars to detect objects—especially pedestrians—at a distance of up to 557 feet and then warn the driver in time.

“It’s important to react quickly and safely in critical and confusing situations,” said Karlheinz Haupt, head of Continental’s Driver Assistance Systems business unit, in a company press release. “With pedestrian detection based on radar alone, VW and Continental have taken one step further towards the prevention of serious accidents, because even a pedestrian who is partially concealed by a vehicle can be detected by our radar.”

Special Considerations

New automotive electronic applications require special care and handling—an issue that Solvay Engineering Plastics wants to solve with its new unfilled and glass fiber reinforced, heat-stabilized engineering plastics. Noting that uncompromising reliability of sensitive electrical and electronic applications—including sensors, relays, bobbins, chargers, and control units—is increasingly important to automotive manufacturers, a Solvay spokesperson said its Technyl grades for electronic applications are “demonstrating excellent retention of properties, including high chemical and hydrolysis resistance, even after long-term exposure to elevated temperatures, while at the same time enduring demanding mechanical loads.”

In a Q&A with Evertiq, Linear Technology Corp.’s Tony Armstrong discussed key automotive electronics market trends and the growing need for “continuous power” to support applications like remote keyless entry, security features, and even personal infotainment systems. Armstrong said Linear has dedicated resources to developing products (i.e., switching regulators with standby quiescent current time of less than 5mA) that address vehicle manufacturers’ continuous power needs.

Artificial Intelligence in Cars

One area of particularly high growth within the automotive electronics sectors is artificial intelligence, or A.I. According to IHS, the installation rates for A.I. in cars will grow from 8% in 2015 to 109% in 2025. These systems will be used in infotainment and advanced driver assistancesystems (ADAS) —a trend that will push the number of vehicle-based A.I. systems to 122 million over the next nine years (up from just 7 million last year).

Defined as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs, A.I. utilizes computers to understand human intelligence. In cars, for example, it can enable one or more software applications to recognize and propose a path on which an intelligent/autonomous vehicle should follow.

Combine technological innovation with the various structural changes that have impacted the automotive industry over the last few years (e.g., engine downsizing, electrification of mechanisms, emission regulations, etc.), and the end result is an overall electronics market that’s primed for more growth over the next 10 years. According to Global Market Insights, the global market will be worth $352 billion by 2023, with the North American industry comprising $80 billion of the market (an increase from $40 billion last year).

“The competitive market of automotive electronics has given rise to the need of producing more interactive and technologically advanced systems,” according to Global Market Insights, which points to Bosch and Continental as two of the dominant manufacturers in the space, noting that the pair claims more than 40% of total market share. Other key suppliers include TRW, Denso, Delphi, and ZF Friedrichshafen.

Overall Market Growth Ahead

With advanced electronics making a significant mark on the automotive market in 2016—and driving the production of everything from smart lighting to lane assist to collision warning systems—expect to see even more innovation ahead for the market. “2016 will no doubt be the year of autonomous vehicles, where we expect more OEMs to follow Tesla in launching autopilot versions of their cars,” writes Mahbubul Alam in Algorithms, Vehicle Security, and More: What’s to Come in 2016.

“Also, expect a big impact as far as advanced automobile safety is concerned, with enhanced safety features enabled through a wide array of proximity sensors such as radar technologies and/or cameras,” Alam continued. “Self-parking cars will also be more broadly available solving both parking and traffic problems by better utilizing the available parking spaces.”

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