LAS VEGAS — MediaTek, Taiwan’s smartphone chip giant, is dead set on entering the growing automotive electronics market, fueled by the belief that its expertise in high-performance, low-power app processors will help carmakers and tier ones develop effective digital cockpits.
A common background in smartphone app processors has driven both Meditek and Qualcomm to the automotive market. Qualcomm announced its plan with a bang, through an imminent acquisition of NXP Semiconductors. However, MediaTek, which is opting for a much more organic approach, is facing an uphill battle. The company's appetite for automotive is understandable. But it remains to be seen if the Taiwan's fabless company — new to the automotive market — can really catch up.
In an exclusive interview with EE Times during the Consumer Electronics Show, JC Hsu, MediaTek’s corporate vice president, detailed the company's previously announced automotive strategy. He emphasized that telematics and multimedia aren’t MediaTek’s only tools in its automotive strategy.
Other technologies and products MediaTek has up its sleeve include 77-79GHz millimeter wave radars, ADAS cameras, and “very low-power” vision SoCs, he said.
JC Hsu, MediaTek's corporate vice president responsible for its automotive business
Of course, unlike Qualcomm, who will have the luxury of NXP opening doors for it once the acquisition is closed later this year, MediaTek will need a crowbar and a lock pick to crack the well-established automotive market.
Hsu, however, is not fazed. He said “We already have a lead customer in each domain” – radar, camera and vision SoC included.
Single-chip CMOS radar
Radar is one of the hottest sensor technologies for carmakers as they augment their ADAS systems.
IHS Markit Automotive expects the market of radar sensors to grow to more than 50 million in 2021.
Hsu said that MediaTek’s experience in 802.11ad – multi-gigabit per second speed wireless communication technologies operating over the unlicensed 60GHz frequency band – and related IPs that it developed with IBM will come in handy for designing radar chips.
One problem with 60GHz signals was that they couldn’t penetrate solid objects, thus confining them to individual rooms. So, IBM and MediaTek downsized military phased-array radar technologies to a single chip, allowing 60 GHz transmitters to steer their beams around obstacles between them and the in-room receivers to which signals are routed.
“We are now using similar IPs to develop our own radar chips for the automotive market,” Hsu explained.
In designing its own radar chip, MediaTek won’t use SiGe, which Hsu said is “too expensive.” Instead, it is developing a “CMOS-based single-chip SoC, scheduled to sample in the first half of this year.” Single-chip integration can help decrease BOM cost and power consumption of radar.
Power consumption in its short-range single-chip SoC will be less than 2 watts, Hsu said, while a medium range version (80 meters) SoC operates at 2 to 3 watts. “We are currently working very closely with a tier one company,” he added.
Next page: Vision SoC — HOG & CNN