ARM architecture leads in the automotive market, Semicast finds

December 14, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Semiconductor market research company Semicast has analyzed market position and potential of the most popular 32-bit embedded processor architectures for automotive applications. According to the Semicast experts, ARM leads the market - and in the foreseeable future, the company will even increase its lead.

Semicast's Embedded Processing Service and Automotive Electronics & Entertainment Systems Service compared the five microprocesor architectures with the largest market share in the automotive industry. Besides ARM, these are Freescale's Power architecture, the SH and V850 families from Renesas, and Infineon's TriCore architecture.

Combining revenues for 32-bit microcontrollers, embedded microprocessors, ASICs, ASSPs and FPGAs, Semicast judges ARM to have been the leading embedded processing architecture in the automotive sector since 2008, having overtaken Power Architecture. ARM's presence is now established in most of the main systems in the vehicle, including airbag, body electronics, braking, driver assistance, electric power steering, infotainment, instrument clusters, radio, navigation systems, satellite radio receivers and embedded telematics. It is this diverse application base which Semicast identifies as the key factor behind the higher revenue growth forecast for ARM over all other architectures in the automotive sector in the medium term, as a wide range of suppliers work together to drive forward ARM’s position in the vehicle.

As in other market sectors, ARM’s leadership position in automotive comes from multiple design-wins across the spectrum of its silicon partners, for example in applications processors (Freescale, Nvidia, Texas Instruments), baseband processors (Qualcomm, ST-Ericsson, Sierra Wireless), Bluetooth/Wi-Fi communications controllers (Broadcom, Marvell) and simple M0/M3 MCUs (Fujitsu, NXP, STMicroelectronics).

Colin Barnden, Principal Analyst at Semicast Research and author of the study, estimates that every light vehicle produced worldwide in 2011 contains an average of three ARM-based microcontrollers, microprocessors and SoCs. By 2016, this figure will climb to seven, Barnden predicts.

Power Architecture was introduced to the automotive sector more than ten years ago, following the announcement from Motorola’s semiconductor products sector (now Freescale) of the MPC5xx family, as a replacement for 68K in powertrain control. Today Power Architecture is established as one of the leading 32-bit architectures in powertrain control, and Freescale has continued to expand its portfolio throughout 2011, in particular with the announcement of the MPC56xx family which is