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What does the design and development of automotive chips rely on? What if automotive chips cannot be independently controlled

What does the design and development of automotive chips rely on? What if automotive chips cannot be independently controlled

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  • Time of issue:2022-08-12
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(Summary description)Time flies, and it has been two years since there was a shortage of automotive chips, while the 'chip shortage' still plagues the global automotive industry.

In August, Toyota announced that some production lines in its local factories in Japan will continue to shut down due to a "shortage of cores", resulting in a 17% decrease in global production that month compared to plan. The latest data shows that due to chip shortages, the eight major Japanese car companies produced 3.42 million new cars in Japan in the first half of this year, a decrease of 14% year-on-year. According to market research agencies, in the first half of the year, China's production was also affected by a "shortage of cores" among several car companies.

What does the design and development of automotive chips rely on? What if automotive chips cannot be independently controlled

(Summary description)Time flies, and it has been two years since there was a shortage of automotive chips, while the 'chip shortage' still plagues the global automotive industry.

In August, Toyota announced that some production lines in its local factories in Japan will continue to shut down due to a "shortage of cores", resulting in a 17% decrease in global production that month compared to plan. The latest data shows that due to chip shortages, the eight major Japanese car companies produced 3.42 million new cars in Japan in the first half of this year, a decrease of 14% year-on-year. According to market research agencies, in the first half of the year, China's production was also affected by a "shortage of cores" among several car companies.

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  • Time of issue:2022-08-12
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Time flies, and it has been two years since there was a shortage of automotive chips, while the 'chip shortage' still plagues the global automotive industry.

In August, Toyota announced that some production lines in its local factories in Japan will continue to shut down due to a "shortage of cores", resulting in a 17% decrease in global production that month compared to plan. The latest data shows that due to chip shortages, the eight major Japanese car companies produced 3.42 million new cars in Japan in the first half of this year, a decrease of 14% year-on-year. According to market research agencies, in the first half of the year, China's production was also affected by a "shortage of cores" among several car companies.

The design and research and development of automotive chips are the foundation for the development of the domestic automotive grade chip industry, and achieving independent control is the key. "Yuan Chengyin, Secretary General of the China Automotive Chip Industry Innovation Strategic Alliance, recently stated in an interview with China Automotive News that it highlights its important value.

What does chip design rely on?

The design of automotive chips relies on the chip design software EDA, "said Yuan Chengyin. The so-called EDA is an electronic design automation software tool, without which all chips would be difficult to complete the design.

In the current chip design software EDA used in the automotive industry, the vast majority and monopoly in the high-end chip field are mostly American software. Only three American companies, Kaideng Electronics, Xinsi Technology, and Siemens EDA (formerly Mentor Graphics), have chip design software EDA with a market share of over 90% in China. "Wei Dong, an engineer at the Microelectronics Technology Laboratory of Xi'an University of Technology, told China Automotive News During the reporter's interview, it was introduced that at present, the dependence on foreign software is a well-known reality in the industry. From computing power chips for autonomous driving to chip designs such as MCU and ECU for smart cars, chip design software EDA is indispensable.

An engineer from an automotive chip design company, Luan Tao, told reporters that after a domestic automotive component supplier "cut off supply" of high-end chips in September 2020, the three aforementioned American companies also terminated the licensing of the company's chip design software EDA. This company can only use the previous old version of the design software EDA, and the chip design ability is severely limited. Since the previous release of a 7-nanometer autonomous driving computing chip, it can no longer upgrade upwards, In the face of the high computational power required for practical applications, the modularization of "stacked chips" can only be used to solve the problem. Moreover, the company requires OEM in production processes such as wafer manufacturing, testing, and packaging, which is quite passive.

High fees increase costs

If automobile chip design cannot achieve autonomy, it not only means high costs, but also will always be 'led by the nose' by others, "said Yuan Chengyin.

The licensing fee for using foreign automotive chip design software EDA is indeed high, "Lin Shuwen, a researcher at East China Automotive New Materials Technology Research Institute, told China Automotive News. Even under normal circumstances, the foreign chip design software EDA used by domestic automotive chip design companies still needs to be licensed to use, Moreover, many high-end chip design software EDA is licensed on a per computer basis, rather than on a per company basis. Usually, each license is sold starting from 3 years, and even the unit price of different EDA tool software varies greatly. By this calculation, the cost of licensing and authorization alone is high. Moreover, if suddenly encountering a "ban", foreign EDA companies will immediately terminate their authorization even if they have a contract.

Foreign EDA companies license and authorize every process node, and without license and authorization, they cannot design at all. "Wei Dong introduced, for example, a chip design company only purchased the license and authorization for EDA, a 16 nanometer chip design software, and without purchasing it, they cannot use 7 nanometers, let alone more advanced 5 nanometers and 3 nanometers automotive chips. At present, smart cars are competing for chips ranging from 7 nanometers to 5 nanometers in terms of intelligence, networking, and autonomous driving. Nvidia has released a 5 nanometers autonomous driving computing platform, which was almost unimaginable two or three years ago. The development of core chip technology in smart cars is showing an acceleration trend.

Unable to autonomously affect geometry?

What will be the impact if we cannot change the situation where foreign automotive chip design software EDA is widely used and cannot achieve autonomous control?

Many people may think that if the licensed foreign chip design software EDA is stopped and superimposed on the old version of EDA, wouldn't it be possible to achieve the design upgrade of automotive chips? It's completely impossible to achieve it in practice, "Lin Shuwen said. When using foreign chip design software EDA, on the one hand, if you want to use an old version of EDA to design an upgraded version of car chips, the design software itself does not allow it. Not only does it lack software modules that support design, but it is also impossible to use EDA for design. Moreover, when the version stops updating or is disabled, the original design materials cannot be downloaded, which is equivalent to immediately 'locking'. On the other hand, the chip design software EDA, which is in normal use, is within the scope of licensing. Once encountering design difficulties, EDA companies need to be consulted to help solve them.

Moreover, if there is an accident, the foreign chip design software EDA company will no longer provide services for some reason, which will have a huge and widespread impact. "Wei Dong said that the design of advanced process digital chips such as computing power chips and artificial intelligence chips required for smart cars can be roughly divided into front-end logical design and back-end physical design, especially the back-end physical design will involve processes related to the process, If advanced GAA (surround gate) chip manufacturing technology is involved, the role of EDA is difficult to replace. If this aspect cannot be designed and completed, the chip cannot be put into mass production.

The path of 'breaking the ice' brings hope

Starting from the "lack of cores", the automotive industry has deeply felt the market risks of the supply chain. In recent years, not only the automotive supply chain, but also the market risks faced by automotive chip design software EDA have become unpredictable. However, the potential market risks have to some extent stimulated the development of independent chip design software EDA.

In 2008, China's major science and technology project for "nuclear high base" (national core electronic devices, high-end general-purpose chips, and basic software products) officially entered the implementation stage. In 2006, the chip design software EDA was included in one of the sixteen major projects identified in the National Medium and Long Term Science and Technology Development Plan Outline (2006-2020). Immediately, domestic enterprises began to enter this field.

Objectively speaking, the three major EDA companies in the United States not only occupy a dominant share in the global EDA market, but also occupy the main fields including automotive chip design software EDA. Other EDA companies later on are difficult to shake their industry positions and can only occupy the 'secondary' market. "Yang Yongnian, an analyst at China Merchants Securities, told China Auto News that therefore, the upward path of independent EDA companies is a long and arduous one. Moreover, from a global perspective, although the market space for chip design software EDA is not large, it is an indispensable and important pillar of the global chip market, including automotive chips. Among them, the global EDA market size in 2020 was only $7.2 billion (approximately RMB 48.6 billion), but it supported the global chip market of $400 billion (approximately RMB 2.7 trillion). At that time, the market size of China's EDA industry reached 6.62 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 20%, making it the regional market with the fastest growth rate in the global EDA industry.

It is worth noting that on August 5th, on the A-share market, domestic chip design software EDA company Huada Jiutian, which was listed on the sixth day, took the lead in raising the limit, causing the entire sector to rise. Huada Jiutian's EDA, which covers chip design functions such as automotive electronics, vehicle networking, sensors, and in car large screen displays, is one of the strongest companies in the domestic field.

If we continue to work hard, there is hope. "Wei Dong believes that although market risks are difficult to measure, as long as we continuously enhance the ability of independent EDA, we can provide support to solve the" shortage of cores "in the automotive industry and achieve independent and controllable control of automotive chips.

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