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  1. Interview
January 7, 2019

CES – Infineon Technologies is on the CASE

Connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) mobility solutions need sensors. Lots of them. Infineon Technologies is a global leader in the field, producing sensors for automotive applications and others. Initiating just-auto/QUBE’s series of interviews at CES, we caught up with Peter Schiefer, President of the Automotive Division at Infineon Technologies.

Connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) mobility solutions need sensors. Lots of them. Infineon Technologies is a global leader in the field, producing sensors for automotive applications and others. Initiating just-auto/QUBE's series of interviews at CES, we caught up with Peter Schiefer, President of the Automotive Division at Infineon Technologies.

Could we start by asking if you can tell us a little more about Infineon Technologies' automotive business and the shape it is in today?

An average car with an internal combustion engine is equipped with $375 worth of semiconductors today. … The higher the level of automation the more semiconductors are necessary.

In the automotive industry, we see three megatrends that will shape the future: electro-mobility, automated driving and the connected car. For us, this is very good news because all of them heavily rely on semiconductor solutions. For example, an average car with an internal combustion engine is equipped with $375 worth of semiconductors today. In a plug-in-hybrid or battery electric vehicle, the semiconductor content sums up to roughly twice the amount. And if we look at automated driving, we see a similar effect. The higher the level of automation the more semiconductors are necessary, for example, sensors like radar or LiDAR but also computing power and actuators. In other words, with our products we are making cars clean, safe and smart. This is why we see ourselves very well positioned for the years to come. In fact, after outgrowing the automotive semiconductor market since 2010 we are very confident to continue to do so also in the time ahead. 

What areas of your automotive business are you particularly well positioned in the marketplace and which show the most promise for growth in 2019?

Today, Infineon is ranked number two among the world's largest automotive semiconductor manufacturers, with a market share of close to 11 per cent. We are covering the three sub-markets sensors, microcontrollers and power semiconductors and are well positioned in all three of them. Particularly in power, we play an outstanding role with a 26 per cent share, which is more than twice as much as our strongest competitor. We have the industry's broadest range of power discretes and modules and a variety of components for mild hybrid vehicles with 48V technology as well as for classic hybrid, PHEV or purely electric vehicles – including those based on SiC. This makes us confident to benefit disproportionately from electro-mobility, which will be our most important driver for growth in the next five years. Combined, electro-mobility and automated driving will account for more than half of Infineon's automotive growth in that period.

We believe that the 32-bit microcontroller units (MCUs) are capturing the lion's share of the market value opportunities in automotive applications, compared to 8- and 16-bit MCUs. Could you tell us a little more about how you are seeing the market unfold and the opportunities for Infineon's AURIX?

We are currently launching the second microcontroller generation AURIX (TC3xx), which are key components for electric vehicles and automated vehicles.

AURIX-Microcontrollers are already very successful in several areas including powertrain, electro-mobility, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), chassis, safety and connectivity. With our TriCore Products, which is the AURIX successor 32bit MCU family, we already capture significant market share in engine management and transmission control. We are currently launching the second microcontroller generation AURIX (TC3xx), which are key components for electric vehicles and automated vehicles. They provide real-time capability, data security, and functional safety to support ISO 26262 system requirements up to ASIL-D. On top of many powertrain applications, the AURIX™ TC3xx microcontrollers are also well-suited to safety-critical applications ranging from airbag, braking and power steering to sensor-based systems using radar or camera technologies. The combination of performance and a powerful safety architecture makes the TC3xx family ideal for domain control and data fusion applications supporting the next levels towards automated driving.

Given that increasing levels of driver automation require more sensors to be fitted to the car, where are Infineon's strengths?

By 2025, we expect every second radar module to use our AURIX microcontroller as a special sensor pre-processor.

Step by step, sensors in the car are complementing and will someday replace the eyes and ears of the human driver. Today, there are different sensor technologies such as camera and radar. In the future, also LiDAR will play an increasing role. In the field of radar-based driver assistance functions, we are the leading chip manufacturer. Our radar sensor elements are sold in two out of three 77-gigahertz radar modules. Furthermore, Infineon is also strong in signal data pre-processing. By 2025, we expect every second radar module to use our AURIX microcontroller as a special sensor pre-processor. Up to level 2 automation the AURIX computing power is sufficient also for sensor fusion. But even in level 3 through 5, where much higher computing power is necessary, AURIX plays an important role, ensuring safety and security. It is the market reference as host controller in central computing platforms, complementing the CPUs/GPUs in order to make the central computer robust and fail operational.

In terms of technologies, either developed in-house or through investments with start-ups, does Infineon have everything it needs today in order to support its customers in developing a L4 – 5 car?

With respect to sensors, namely LiDAR, acquiring the Dutch start-up Innoluce in 2016 was an important step for Infineon. Redundancy of three complementary sensor technologies is the basis for automated driving at level 3 or higher. Regarding the computing part, we will showcase sensor fusion based on our AURIX microcontrollers at CES. We will continue to increase performance and computing power in the AURIX but it is not our ambition to build processors or GPUs like those offered by companies such as Nvidia. Instead, our focus at higher levels of automation is on safety and – not to forget – security. After all, there is no safety without security. This in mind, we are cooperating with leading automated driving platform providers such as Nvidia, Intel, Baidu, Elektrobit, and TTTech.

We understand that Infineon's LiDAR MEMS know-how partly comes from its acquisition of Dutch start-up, Innoluce. What applications do you see your next-generation MEMS enabling?

The acquisition of Innoluce gave us a kick start into LiDAR as an application.

The acquisition of Innoluce gave us a kick start into LiDAR as an application. In combination with our Infineon MEMS and signal processing know-how, we plan to enable a LiDAR system at affordable cost. The components we will offer cover the transmit and receive path. The proven AURIX 2G microcontroller, well known from camera and radar applications, is a good fit to serve LiDAR as well. The products are designed to serve both mid and long range LiDAR systems of autonomous vehicles, which could be robo-taxis or passenger owned cars. 

We continue to see the transition to HEV/EV and the related infrastructure to support electrification of vehicle fleets. Could you comment on the ways in which the megatrend for alternative fuelled vehicles is driving innovation in sensors?

We see a lot of potential for sensors in electrified cars. These will be used in three new categories of use cases:

1. Different kind of battery sensors to monitor the status, increase efficiency and prove health of the high voltage battery.

2. Smart current sensors at multiple points of the EV architecture to monitor and optimise the system.

3. Motor position sensors to replace big and expensive resolvers.

In addition, future cars driven by fuel cell technology will need a special kind of pressure sensors and maybe gas sensors to ensure a safe operation of the fuel cell stack.

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