Bosch goes on the fast lane in the car computer business

Bosch goes on the fast lane in the car computer business

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The new unit combines the company’s resources in software, electrics and electronics development from the areas of driver assistance and automated driving, car multimedia as well as powertrain and body electronics under one roof.

Vehicle computers are a fast-growing market – Bosch is talking about a total market of currently 20 billion euros and a growth rate of 15 percent per year. The market is driven by car manufacturers’ efforts to replace the numerous electronic control units (ECUs) scattered throughout the car with more centralised domain computers and, eventually, a central computer. This will result in electronics accounting for up to 30 percent of the vehicle’s value in the future – today, the value of all chips and sensors combined amounts to just 10 percent of the vehicle’s value.

The centralisation of computer functions is also part of Bosch’s strategy: the company, which has so far provided specialised ECUs and driver assistance systems as well as the associated sensors and actuators, intends to soon also produce central computers for cockpit functions and body electronics. To this end, Bosch is relying on a scalable modular approach that can be tailored to all requirements from small cars to premium vehicles.

In doing so, Bosch is careful not to go too far out on a limb by committing itself to certain strategic partners and thereby possibly giving away market potential. “We work with all relevant semiconductor manufacturers,” a company spokeswoman confirmed. In any case, the choice of chip suppliers in this computer league is quite clear; at best, there are only a handful of suppliers such as NXP, Nvidia, Renesas or Texas Instruments. Unlike competitors, Bosch avoids the impression to be too closely aligned to one partner. “It always depends on the customer”, the spokeswoman said.  

Bosch’s modular logic is intended to enable a particularly high degree of flexibility in the development of vehicle computers for different vehicle models. For example, if a basic architecture of hardware and software is predefined, it can be adapted according to the customer’s project along a predefined system. For premium vehicles, additional software modules or special chips are then added to the circuit boards to enable more functions.

In the next generation of vehicles, Bosch’s central cockpit computer will initially take over the tasks of up to ten control units. As a result, automakers will be able to significantly reduce the number of ECUs, which in some cases number more than 100. “Vehicle computers are the key to reducing the complexity of electronic systems and making them as safe as possible,” says Harald Kröger, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. If more central high-performance computers are installed in the future, this will also save cable length – and thus costs, weight and installation space.

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