Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger is pushing car makers to more advanced process nodes with the promise of more chip making capacity in Europe.
In a keynote speech to the IAA Munich car show this week, he sees semiconductors accounting for over 20 percent of the total bill of materials of a premium vehicle by 2030, up 500 percent on 2019 driven by the need for more data processing from cameras and Lidar sensors. Gelsinger predicted the total addressable market for automotive semiconductors will nearly double by the end of the decade to $115 billion, accounting for more than 11 percent of the entire silicon market and he wants Intel to be a significant provider of that silicon in Europe.
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However car makers have been badly hit by cancelling chip orders last year at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and finding that re-ordiering has taken at least a year.
“This new era of sustained demand for semiconductors needs bold, big thinking,” said Gelsinger. This includes an investment of €80bn ($115bn) in semiconductor production in Europe, but over the next decade. This compares to investment of $100bn by TSMC and $200bn by Samsung on capacity over the next three years.
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The automotive business is a key driver for Intel’s ambitions in Europe, and Intel has been in discussion on a fab for this service in Bavaria. Intel Foundry Services, announced in March, is actively engaged in discussions with potential customers in Europe, including automotive companies and their suppliers.
The company announced plans to establish committed foundry capacity at its fab in Ireland and launch the Intel Foundry Services Accelerator to help automotive chip designers transition to advanced nodes. For this, the company is launching a new design team and offering both custom and industry-standard intellectual property (IP) to support automotive customers.
The move to more aggressive process nodes is natural as the designs have to be ported to a new process anyway so may as well take advantage of more up to date technology.
However the Leixlip fab in Ireland is only at Intel’s 14nm process node. This compares to NXP jumping from 28nm to 5nm for its automotive parts with TSMC in Taiwan, although TSMC is also looking at a 12nm fab in Dresden, Germany, also to serve the automotive market.
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