Infotainment drives memory increase in modern cars

March 22, 2013 // By Giorgio Scuro
The automotive market is moderately but steadily growing. Global car sales rose 6% year-on-year in the first half of 2012, despite the ongoing headwinds associated with the sovereign debt problems in Western Europe and some moderation in the pace of global economic activity.

Global sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles are expected to grow from 78 million units in 2011 to more than 100 million units in 2018. In a recent study, Gartner confirmed that electronics are playing a major role in the advancement of automotive technology. Electronic content in cars has been steadily increasing since the first digital engine control modules were introduced in the 80s.

Today, microelectronics enables advanced safety features, new information and entertainment services, and greater energy efficiency. The electric/electronic share of value added to a state-of-the-art vehicle is already at 40% for traditional, internal combustion engine cars and jumps as high as 75% for electric or hybrid electric vehicles. This trend will accelerate as advances in semiconductor technology continue to drive down the cost of various electronic modules and subsystems.

Infotainment is one of the key megatrends fueling the pervasiveness of microelectronics in cars. Users want to be connected and conveniently access their personal content anywhere, anytime, on all of their devices. The vehicle becomes just another node in the network, an extension of the user's digital and social lifestyle. A "connected" car is also more comfortable, safer, and energy efficient, having early access to important information such as weather reports, traffic jams, or road accidents. According to a recent study, 60% of new cars will be connected by 2017. Given this scenario, consumer electronic trends are dictating features in the car, and the innovation cycle time is becoming shorter and shorter.

Automotive electronics are memory-hungry

The explosive growth of infotainment systems in modern cars has a significant impact on the market demand for semiconductor memories. For 2012, the average memory content of a car was estimated to be around US$12.8, ranging from US$2.0 for low-end models to more than US$100 for fully equipped luxury vehicles. As a result, the total available market value for semiconductor memories in automotive applications is expected to reach a compounded