Automotive signal-processing applications are booming. DSP is already big in applications ranging from audio systems to electric power steering, and it's on its way to making a big splash in video-based entertainment and safety applications. Don't believe me? Just check out this week's announcements from TI and ADI, who have both thrown their weight behind automotive video apps.
As a DSP guy, I'm excited to see this happening. I firmly believe that DSP has the power to improve everything from fuel economy to driver sanity. (If you've ever had to take a road trip with kids, you know how important that rear-seat entertainment can be!) And over 60 million cars and light trucks are sold every year, making this a truly massive market for DSP. Yet surprisingly, few DSP engineers will get to work on these applications.
Automotive applications have unusual requirements that put them off limits to all but a small handful of designers. For one thing, automotive apps have specialized requirements that most DSP engineers are unfamiliar with. A good example of this is the AEC-Q100 quality requirement common in automotive applications.
The bigger problem is that the automotive industry is notoriously conservative. Part of this has to do with the long timelines associated with cars. The development cycle for a typical vehicle typically stretches over several years. Once the model reaches production, it generally stays in production for several more years. And a steady supply of spare parts is needed for at least a decade after production ends. All of this means that automakers only want to work with experienced companies who have proven there ability to stick around for the long haul. That makes it very hard for new players to break into the market.
So while I'm glad to see DSP transforming automobiles, it's frustrating that so many of us have to watch the action from the sidelines. If you have ideas for breaking into this market, stop by the forum and let me know. I'd love to get more of us involved!