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Competition Heating Up among Chipmakers to Preempt Automotive Semiconductor Market
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Competition Heating Up among Chipmakers to Preempt Automotive Semiconductor Market
  • By Kim Eun-jin
  • October 23, 2018, 10:19
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Semiconductor companies are pushing hard to preoccupy the burgeoning automotive memory semiconductor market.

As the era of autonomous driving has come close, semiconductor companies are pushing hard to preoccupy the automotive semiconductor market. Samsung Electronics introduced automotive DRAM and NAND products this year, while Western Digital has released the world's first 3D NAND product.

Western Digital, the third-largest NAND company, announced at the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas Hotel in Seoul on October 22 that it will launch its “i-NAND AT EU312 EFD,” an automotive semiconductor, in the fourth quarter. The company has applied 3D NAND technology to the product for the first time in the industry.

Western Digital said it has delivered samples of the product to most of the major automobile companies. It explained that automobiles equipped with Western Digital's automotive memory semiconductors will be out in 2020. "We have applied the fourth-generation 64-bit 3D NAND technology to this new product. We are confident that this product will further strengthen Western Digital's position in the automotive industry," said Russell Rubin, director of marketing for Western Digital's Automotive Solutions.

Western Digital's new product is notable for its industry-first 3D NAND application. The company has overcome the technical limitations in applying 3D NAND to the automotive memory semiconductor. 3D NAND is better than flat (2D) NAND in terms of capacity, speed, and power usage, but it has not been used in the automotive market because automakers have been demanding a very high level of stability and a long warranty period and insisted on using the conventional 2D NAND.

Western Digital is sure that automotive memory semiconductors will be at the center of 3D NAND. “i-NAND AT EU312 EFD” is 2.5 times more functional than existing e.MMC based on UFS 2.1 interface, which has already been proven in the market. It has a wide range of options from 16GB to 256GB, with sequential write speed up to 550MB/s and sequential read speed up to 800MB/s. The heat resistance guarantee section is also between -40 to 105 degrees. An industry official said, "3D NAND application has a symbolic meaning, and it is clear that it is the best in the industry when it comes to specifications."

Samsung Electronics has launched its NAND and DRAM products for automobiles this year and is expanding its market dominance. Samsung offers a wider range of products than Western Digital, which only focuses on NAND. Samsung introduced NAND-based “256GB eUFS,” which was applied to ADAS, infotainment and dashboard system in February. The continuous reading speed of 850MB/s is higher than that of new Western Digital products. The heat resistance guarantee section is also between -40 to 105 degrees. In April, Samsung Electronics began mass production of “10-nanometer 16b LPDDR4X DRAM” for automobiles.

Meanwhile, Micron started chasing Western Digital and Samsung Electronics. Micron plans to expand its plant in Manassas, Virginia to produce automotive semiconductors. For this, the company plans to invest US$3 billion. "Demand for automotive chips for vehicle collision avoidance systems and lane departure warning systems is growing. Future vehicles will be wheeled data centers," said Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of Micron.

In the meantime, SK Hynix is preparing to launch an automotive strategy team to enter the automotive semiconductor market. SK Hynix said, "Currently, we are discussing the supply of automotive electric memories to automotive electric devices companies."

According to market research firm IHS, the automotive semiconductor market is expected to reach US$55.3 billion with an average annual growth rate of 7.7% until 2022. Another market research firm IC Insights predicted that the automotive semiconductor market would grow at an average of 12.5% annually until 2021, which would be more than twice the average growth rate of the whole semiconductor market of 6.1%.