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Chip makers to carmakers: time to get out of the semiconductor Stone Age

Chip makers to carmakers: time to get out of the semiconductor Stone Age

OB1182

>Carmakers have bombarded him with requests to invest in brand-new production capacity for semiconductors featuring designs that, at best, were state of the art when the first Apple iPhone launched. I laughed at that.


20-832

My 2021 civic runs android 4.4, and even that is running so ridiculously slow it's a slap in every customer's face.


Alextryingforgrate

Looking at a lot of car reviews and how slow the UI is, is embarrassing. There is no reason for infotainment to be so laggy and hard to use at this point in time. If companies are going to be full on no physical HVAC, Stereo or any sort of physical buttons you best have a laptop in the dash other then that I still want my buttons to press so I know where they are Instead of having to take my eyes off the road.


HalliburtonErnie

The touchscreen lag on most cars really bothers me. The only truly instant car touchscreen I've ever used was on an '86 Buick Riviera. Good UI too, and everything you could possibly want in a car control screen, HVAC, radio, diagnostic, gauges, and more. Why don't car makers just use that tech instead of making new slow bloated stuff that can't take extreme shock or temperature?


pineapple_calzone

You know, it's funny. In the 80s, and computers were terrible, by today's standards, but they were also better by all the standards modern computers fail at. There was no feature bloat, there were no interpereters. You wrote your shit in assembly (I'm not counting basic here, I'm talking about complex production software) and ran it in a known environment with nothing else going on. And god help you if you shipped with a bug. You were never going to be able to update it, at least not reliably, so a system that ran well in 1984 will run just as well in 2021. So they were frankly snappy and reliable, in a way modern computers just aren't.


TomatoFettuccini

Patches were released all the time for software; it was released in magazines and you had to code it in yourself.


mt_spaceman

This is the best TIL in a while; I just took for granted the way updates/patches were distributed now, and a very tasty historical morsel. Thanks for sharing that, and happy cake day!


aoeudhtns

I watched a video on the Color MaxiMite and it mentioned how, just like the C64/128, it's ready to go the instant you turn it on because the whole operating system is in firmware. And I saw some more videos on how low the latency is between typing and characters appearing on the screen. I had forgotten about how awesome that was back in the day. Power switch on, GO. (Well, BASIC lol.) Here I am in 2021, some background job spools up on my company laptop, and I have to wait for characters to appear as I type. Or heck, just use O365 and there are occasional delays as you type. Click a menu and *crunch crunch crunch* menu appears. On a multi-core processor with gigabytes of memory. Slow and latent compared to a processor that's used for calculators and a few K of memory. I understand all the reasons behind it but still it's a funny juxtaposition.


CoyotePuncher

See this is what I dont understand. Why do modern cars need this stuff? What in the world are people doing in their cars? * Radio * GPS * Bluetooth calling * Ability to connect phone for music What else *is* there? The things you have to do while driving a car have not changed. I dont understand why modern infotainment systems have 15 different apps on them and 45 different pages to scroll through. The fact that people can text via their infotainment or check the recent baseball game results is fucking absurd. One because of safety, but two because why in the world cant you just wait or have your passenger do it? Did ADD become contagious or something?


aebm90

Main reason is money. Tech is a big selling point. Car ads always talk about how much more features they have over the competition.


verdegrrl

[Video for reference](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoYSCuAwPUg)


Kristoffer__1

That video is pure perfection. The bird chirps, the leopard print jacket and the obnoxious ring all just set it apart from the rest.


cheetoblue

>'86 Buick Riviera wow, Today I learned! Looking up photos of this retro futuristic car is blowing my mind. i never new this existed, but then again I was 2 when this car was around.


Drenlin

A lot of 80s cars had stuff like this! It was sort of a fad for a while. Check out the voice alerts on this one: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBFdvJwl8T8](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBFdvJwl8T8) That said, most of these old systems were less than reliable, in the long run, and impossible to get parts for.


Jlsajdfowjqfpoiwfi

Try out a Tesla, it’s pretty close to an iPad most of the time


HalliburtonErnie

Yes! Teslas are okay! I've driven/used my sister's Model 3 a bit.


mklimbach

I would guess that the Buick isn't very secure, nor does it have nearly the connectivity to the rest of the car's features/modules that most cars have, plus a UI that is much more intensive to run (high resolution, animations, framerate, etc). But I agree, there's not much of an excuse to not have a snappy UI, especially when the car is brand new. Uconnect 5 with Android OS instead of Unix seems to be a pretty big step up in terms of instant response once it's 100% loaded up (say, 30 seconds in, it's loads important things like HVAC first).


coyote_of_the_month

It's not networked. It doesn't need to be secure.


TheWhiteFalcon

It's airgapped, how secure does it really need to be?


legaladvcethrwaway

> I would guess that the Buick isn't very secure, nor does it have nearly the connectivity to the rest of the car's features/modules that most cars have, plus a UI that is much more intensive to run (high resolution, animations, framerate, etc). Well no shit, Sherlock. It was made in nineteen motherfucking eighty six.


EV_Track_Day

Tesla's UI is really good. Zero lag with a large, clear display. The hardware is strong enough to play Witcher 3 smoothly. Its easy to provide a solid UI experience. Its simply a case of the legacy automakers not wanting to. I mean look at the twin screen debauchery of the new WRX.


MesWantooth

The Ferrari Roma has touch screen surfaces for every function - even the starter. And there is no haptic feedback. Very unsatisfying. Edit: “Every function” is a gross exaggeration haha - acceleration and braking are excluded…Should have said all the infotainment/climate control/initial start up.


Alextryingforgrate

I saw that. Really not impressive.


fallinouttadabox

Does it accelerate based on how many toes are on the gas touch screen?


Kristoffer__1

Nah, the accelerator is in a third sub-menu of the vehicle controls page, goes up by 10% per tap!


pineapple_calzone

Does anyone else ever get the impression that all of this bougie ass rich people shit is just incredibly shoddy and unsatisfying? I remember I saw a video of the Bugatti Chiron interior, and I can't remember exactly what it wise, but I distinctly remember seeing some kind of typographical or spelling error in one of the screens. It just seems like you can spend millions of dollars and have something that didn't fundamentally have more care put in it than the same thing for the plebs. Which I think is incredibly depressing. I mean, we're destroying our world so that people can have billions they'll never spend, and come to find out that all it even buys them is a more expensive 10 year old android tablet embedded in a thermostat that's buggier than a Nest but costs $10,000?


left_schwift

The Bugatti Chiron is probably a bad example, they designed that interior with very minimal screens compared to most any other modern supermarket


M0n33baggz

Money can’t buy taste


PTG_St3v3oh

Even though I agree with most of this, UI and overall infotainment chips are not what's being talked about in the article. The article specifically mentions chips for brake Controllers and similar car safety and reliability critical systems. Most new cars are getting pretty good with quick infotainment, luxury brands are even partnering with Nvidia or AMD to provide fast response times and high resolutions.


Thefrayedends

A domestic production vehicle has to be able to work in the dead of a Canadian Winter, and in the Heat of an Arizona summer. I'm not saying its impossible for a more responsive system, I'm just curious what the price differential in chips is for all weather processors. does anyone on here know? Because the price just gets passed on in the sticker price. Talking about lower mid entrly level cars like civics are more price conscious and can't just have a limitless budget for stuff like this.


LemonPeelScent

a $50 phone would run 4.4 like a beast. What the hell are they using for the CPU? a pentium 2?


Kristoffer__1

Sand. Raw.


AMonkeyAndALavaLamp

My friend's 2018 chevy runs windows xp. He bought the base model and they asked him to pay for satnav as an option, but he found you could unlock it by way of regedit.exe.


Kristoffer__1

> but he found you could unlock it by way of regedit.exe. That's honestly hilarious


hydrochloriic

I don’t know of any production vehicle running Microsoft systems. What Chevy?


AMonkeyAndALavaLamp

It's called Onix in Argentina. It's about as big as a Yaris if that helps as a reference, but much less equipped.


swagmastersond

My Explorer has Sync 2.0 and “my Ford touch” but not nav. Unlocked that with FORScan and OBD2 adapter


OB1182

My 2003 saab has an oem kenwood DVD nav/radio which works perfectly fine. Shame that the maps are from 2002 but still.


TaffyTilt

Check the website of whomever actually made the GPS maps (Garmin/TomTom/Magellan etc) that Kenwood integrated into the system. They usually will have free map updates for their systems you can download and install yourself.


OutWithTheNew

I think a lot of that was offloaded to a third party and you have to pay for updates beyond a couple of years. Or I'm wrong, it's been a while since I looked into it.


TomatoFettuccini

But hey, you can't have your neighborhood garage fix your car because your privacy could be violated. Meanwhile, [Android 4.4 security vulnerabilities.](https://androidvulnerabilities.org/by/version/4.4.4) Support Right to Repair.


Jesus_H-Christ

Low cost and hardened chips are what the auto industry requires. Just the way it goes. Maximize profits, minimize warranty costs.


brazucadomundo

Actually this is the case for most embedded systems, but not because they are behind the newest semiconductor designs, but because bigger manufacturing processes are more resilient to the embedded environment and the performance doesn't need to be that high. This doesn't apply for infotainment, of course.


MSRsnowshoes

> Most systems in cars are safety-critical and need to perform in practically every situation regardless of temperature, humidity, vibrations, and even minor road debris. With so much at stake, tried and true is better than new and improved.  That's the other side of the Moore's Law coin. Validating new chips is expensive. While newer chips might be smaller and more power-efficient, testing and certification takes time and money. There's a reason mission-critical chips in military, aeronautics (including devices launched into space), and other applications run on old chip designs; (hell, Perseverence [uses a twenty-year-old](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAD750) chip) they're rated for hard use. It's the ol' "price, performance, reliability; pick two" rule. I get jazzed about new tech too, but after having been in a couple of car accidents caused by others, I'd rather the chip(s) running the safety gear of my car not take a proverbial dump if it's too cold or simple road vibration damages them over time. I've noticed that the tech industry can display a surprising amount of hubris. I see it in app phones when people complain that battery life doesnt improve with more efficient chips or people complain about the increasing size. I see it in every laptop with glued components that has a poor repairability rating. Tesla, Uber, and others are behind their self-driving car goals. Bitcoin is exciting, but [electrically inefficient](https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56012952). I wonder if this buy-our-newer-chips messaging is another example (it may not be, especially if newer chips can perform better and meet operational standards). Cars are already being treated like disposable appliances, to the detriment of buyer's bank accounts and the environment (when it comes to disposal), it'd be a shame to see them slide further down that path via chip failures. To be fair, if chips of newer, smaller design can meet or exceed the standards of the previous chips at same or lower price points, I'm all for it.


turbo-cunt

I literally have that exact same paragraph copied and just came back here to paste it. Thank you! This sub will point and laugh at Tesla for high failure rates on their non-automotive grade screens then turn right around and say "bUt WHy cAR nO UsE pHOnE ChIp??"


BonelessChicknStrips

I mean if you really want to go there you are talking about a screen. Tesla's never have any issues with the processors in the car


2four

This In so many industries, we use old tech because it's vetted. I can't tell you how many times we've wanted to use a modern piece of hardware on our satellites but we can't because it's unknown what its performance will be in a vacuum being bombarded with radiation. Who's going to pay for the testing when I can just use this old chip that works fine and has 1300 pages of documentation and has flown three dozen times before? Honestly, these new "better" chips are fast and great and all, but they don't work well under radiation or thermal changes or voltage variations, all of which are critical mission requirements. Plus, all I'm doing half the time is controlling a servo, why the hell do I need all the bells and whistles that modern chips offer when I can just use my old design from the last mission?


Indira-Gandhi

> There’s a reason mission-critical chips in military, aeronautics (including devices launched into space), and other applications run on old chip designs; (hell, Perseverence uses a twenty-year-old chip) they’re rated for hard use. You're talking about chips specifically hardened against radiation and EMP attacks. Older slower less dense chips are inherently less vulnerable to radiation. There's no such requirement for cars. Simple truth is that it costs money to redesign your chips for a smaller node. Car companies and supplier margins are so fucking thin that they never planned for this contingency. Probably never expected chips per car to double/triple either. Car companies are more like airlines than like tech companies. They don't have Apple's 40% margins to plan for every contingency under the sky. They barely have enough cash to get through couple rough quarters.


hydrochloriic

And yet failures in automotive tech would likely be more deadly than military. Think of how many car accidents there already are, now imagine if suddenly some of the safety critical systems didn’t function because the silicon they’re running is only two years old and there’s a design flaw that’s susceptible to vibration that only manifests at ~2 years? There isn’t an out-and-out requirement, sure. But manufacturers really don’t want to take on additional risk when they know what they already have is tried and true and plenty capable.


THXFLS

If it's good enough for the GameCube, it's good enough for exploring Mars.


PyroKnight

> hell, Perseverence uses a twenty-year-old chip Not the best example as that chip needs to be [radiation hardened](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hardening) which is a *very* intense and lengthy process. The main reason Perseverance uses that CPU is because Curiosity has been using it with no issues this past decade and the Perseverance mission reused a surprising amount of tech from Curiosity to get it off the ground sooner. For the Curiosity rover that chip was only a decade old, but I'd say it was younger than that given they settled on it *well* before launch. For the RAD750, the older node is only a small (but meaningful) part of what makes that chip so robust for space usage, but old nodes alone aren't enough for proper radiation hardening.


AnimeAlt44

Please read the article. But for the buffoons who won’t here’s a skit oversimplifying things. Carmakers: make chips pls. Intel: I have chips. A lot of chips. Carmakers: I don’t know how to use those. Can you make dumber ones? Intel: Bruv, these chips can do everything you want and more. Redesign your shit to last the next decade of production and we’re both happy. Carmakers: Nobody will sell us chips :<


Barebacking_Bernanke

Basically covers it. Carmakers are complaining that chip fabs won't spend billions of dollars setting up production lines just for them to manufacture a chip architecture that first entered service when George W Bush was still President. Carmakers need to wake up and smell the free market coffee. They're not important enough costumers for chipmakers to reorient their production line for, so carmakers need to adapt to the chips that are actually being produced right now.


Elite_Club

> They're not important enough costumers for chipmakers to reorient their production line for, An unintended dig at badge engineering


AnimeAlt44

Tetsuya Tada in shambles.


pioneer9k

Is this why even in some new high end cars animations are laggy, when you can pick up 5 year old phone and theyre smooth?


DancingPaul

Wanna get even worse? Ever see the IT and software dealerships use for diamnostics? GM software requires you to use internet explorer and Java 8 or the apps won't even start. I have to keep technician Pcs from updating because it will break the techs GM provided software that looks like it was made in the 80s


CatProgrammer

> I have to keep technician Pcs from updating Sounds like you should be making a VM for them with exactly the right versions of software required and then just cloning that specific image so that you know for sure that the right environment is being used. Though that does require teaching car techs how to use virtual machines.


pioneer9k

Even ferrari tho?? Like have you seen the lag on the Roma? Sheeeeesh. Love the car but like what the hell.


Nizzyklo

With the low volumes they have even less cash to throw at it. Tech shines at scales.


MikeHeu

Just run Android Automotive on it, like Polestar does. Pour some Ferrari sauce over it and you’re done.


diamondpredator

It's honestly mind-blowing to me that every single manufacturer isn't already doing this. Fuck your custom UI, just grab Android Auto and Car Play, throw a light skin on it and call it a fucking day. It'll be quicker, easier, cheaper, and you're never going to make software better than Google and Apple. It seems so simple.


RangerHikes

Car designers are tech illiterate and tech engineers are car illiterate. Doug demuro talks about this at length in a recent episode of decoder, highly recommend. Basically, cars and computers/smartphones are just radically different things so the people who design one often lack a real understanding of what makes the other good or bad.


diamondpredator

Well the car manufacturers need to catch up real quick. The electric car era is here and manufacturers are going to be differentiating themselves via software since most of the mechanical aspects of the cars will be extremely similar. Tesla is essentially a software company at this point. Also, what is decoder? Is it a podcast? Sounds interesting.


alwayz

If all the cars have the same infotainment they won't be able to sell you the higher end trims.


RangerHikes

You could always take the WRX approach and give the lower trims this weird unnecessary Nintendo DS split screen


diamondpredator

Then be more inventive to give reasons for people to buy higher-end trims. Novel concept, I know.


hutacars

But CP/AA come on even the base trims now, so other than possibly screen size, why would anyone upgrade for infotainment reasons as it is?


itsadiseaster

How about moonroof, mirror with compass and protective stripes on your door. Isn't that enough for a higher trim? I can throw one more 12V outlet in the trunk, too small all weather floor mats and an led light if you want as a popular package #2


colmusstard

Android automotive is different from android auto and CarPlay CarPlay and android auto run on your phone


zanor

Part of why I think it hasn't been widely adopted yet is because it means handing over a lot of control to another company. Toyota didn't even use Android Auto for a long time because of privacy concerns. Honestly, even though it'd cost more in R&D, I'd prefer for automakers to just finally start making good infotainment systems. Google and Apple control enough, and I actually like some of the unique systems different car companies create.


shigs21

I would say ferrari would be one of the biggest offendors. They spend money on styling and the performance. I'd say UI is the smallest priority for them


NightflowerFade

This is why Tesla, being essentially a tech company, has the only good software


whiskysage2

I just have no idea why Apple, who has sunk millions into this Apple Car that won't ever happen, hasn't gotten into designing the UI's and hardware for car companies. Ditto Microsoft, Google, etc.


PhaseSea1141

Nope. It is entirely due to software on it being shit. You don't need last year's CPU to make snappy UI. Someone somewhere assumed "people won't skip a car just because UI is shit" and didn't invest into it


x-artoflife

Maybe it's also why your phone or computer glitches or crashes every couple days but the software and electronics in your car work perfectly for 100k miles.


Kristoffer__1

> Maybe it's also why your phone or computer glitches or crashes every couple days Uh, I've not had my pc or phone crash in absolute ages. I'm even running experimental updates on my phone and Windows 11 lol


derprunner

I see you've never driven a Ford with Sync 1.0 The electronics critical for locomotion are bulletproof, but the system will randomly lose its Bluetooth functionality for a few hours every couple of weeks, or get stuck cycling between presets 5 and 6 on the radio.


borderwave2

>I see you've never driven a Ford with Sync 1.0 Sync 2 as well. APIM failures galore.


anarchyx34

> I see you’ve never driven a Ford with Sync 1.0 *TRIGGERED*


DefaultVariable

Honestly I've had to restart my PC for a bug maybe three times in the past five years. I've had to unplug and plug in my phone back into my infotainment system to fix a bug with it about once every 3 days.


Falanax

What phone or computer do you have that glitches that much?


rasp215

That has nothing to do with a laggy UI using tech from 10 years ago.


armchairracer

The infotainment on my gti is way buggier than my phone.


marbleduck

My phone hasn’t yet required any sort of reset since I got it 3 years ago and my laptop has required a single digit number of hard resets.


faizimam1

Also, if car makers were willing to pay enough for the old chips to make the capital cost worth while, that would be one thing. But they still want to get them for pennies, which means chip makers can just laugh and walk away.


deegeese

It’s like walking into a bakery and asking for a hundred loaves of day old bread. Then get offended when they offer you fresh bread at full price.


mklimbach

I mean, that's pretty much how this sub is acting about current car pricing. Of course it's high, there's more demand than supply.


TenguBlade

Rules for thee, but not for me...


StabbyPants

only if there's enough volume to justify keeping old ass mfring equipment. if the chip is literally 15 years old, it's probably in a long obsolete process.


PhaseSea1141

> Basically covers it. Carmakers are complaining that chip fabs won't spend billions of dollars setting up production lines just for them to manufacture a chip architecture that first entered service when George W Bush was still President And for 99.9 % of the car that's entirely sufficient. Making your ECU CPU in 7nm process instead of 40nm process buys you exact jack shit, and same for just about everything else. You will *maybe* save tiny amount of power and few pannies The only real exception is infotainment (and self-driving now). And car-makers are between hammer and anvil, as **they are not ones deciding what chips to make and on what process**, they are not making chips in a first place Rather it's a chip maker like Renesis or ST deciding it. And it's not as simple as "use 12nm process instead of using 40nm", good parts of chip needs to be redesigned as if you shrink it 3x times, the current capacity and many other parameters need to be changed as well so it's almost like designing new chip. And designing new chip is fucking expensive and if you're going thru the effort you might as well make new one instead of re-relase old. There are exceptions of course but still. And that's not even going into parts that can't just be made smaller (so no cost savings) like power related parts where going to smaller process will still mean you make same sized chips at more expensive process and still need to burn some cost on changing the process, re-testing everything etc.


Joey23art

> Making your ECU CPU in 7nm process instead of 40nm process buys you exact jack shit If you can't buy a 40nm chip but you can buy a 7nm chip, then what it gets you is the chip vs no chip. Doesn't matter if it's overkill, the whole point of discussion in this comment thread is about the fact that no one is interested in making more 45-90nm chips just for the car industry.


TenguBlade

> so carmakers need to adapt to the chips that are actually being produced right now. Only someone who's never worked a day in the automotive industry could nonchalantly ask car companies to spend billions completely-redesigning their electrical architectures every few years. Yeah, sure, 16nm fabs are underused right now. Let's say automakers take the plunge and redesign everything to use them. But what happens in 5 years when the rest of the electronics industry moves on from 16nm? Automakers are once again going to face the issue of being the only buyers of said chips. Then what good has the auto industry's billions invested in redesigning for newer chips done? Nothing. That means those billions are effectively wasted. **The auto industry is determined to die on this hill because nobody in the business can afford to keep up with the rapid pace of advancement in semiconductors.** Obviously, they will protest when prices are raised, but if you think automakers will switch, you're daft. The way this ends is either the two industries come to a compromise for continued production, or automakers get into the chipmaking business themselves.


PervertedBatman

The last one would never happen, there's not enough money in the game for that. The car makers will probably be forced to move onto a newer node and worry about another pandemic when it rolls around. I dont think it has to be anything new like 5/7nm just something currently in use by other industries.


MalnarThe

True for legacy, false for the new wave. All of these startups, not just Tesla, will be able to pivot chips and rewrite software or drivers quickly. Legacy will not fare will is they can't either


TenguBlade

This is absolutely within legacies' technical capabilities to solve. The issue is one of cost, not speed. While startup still have an advantage there as their lineups are much smaller, and their greater software focus still counts for something here too, it puts a completely different perspective on the legacies' outlook.


BonelessChicknStrips

Cars are already being refreshed every few years with new engines, aerodynamics and added safety features. They should be able to adjust for new chips as well


Chachimichonga

Automakers not being able to keep up with the advancement is irrelevant to the chip makers. They are running a business, not a charity. The former has the choice of either spending billions on redesigning things around the newer chips, or doing the same building their own chip plants that'll slow down production sharply for the next few years, and of course will require continued reinvestment to maintain and replace the equipment. Ultimately none of the roads you talked about are what the automakers want right now, which is that chip makers spend their own billions building plants for old processes to keep up with automaker demands, without increasing the price of the final product.


TenguBlade

> Ultimately none of the roads you talked about are what the automakers want right now Yes. That's how you generally negotiate. Push hard, then only back off as needed. Automakers taking this stance right now doesn't mean they won't give ground later. As for whether I believe they will give, there's a reason why I did not entertain the notion that chip makers will give in to their demands when I listed out the ways I think this will end. You're correct that what they want makes no business sense for the chip makers.


JohnnyBIII

The funny thing is, the first few automakers that do this will likely have a first mover advantage. There’s a lot of unmet demand in the car market, and they would have car systems that work miles better than their competitors.


borderwave2

>Carmakers (Tesla not included)


crab_quiche

Except they don’t do everything cars manufacturers want. Larger nodes are much better at being hardened against voltage spikes and other issues. Plus many chips used in cars are at the point where you can’t shrink the physical size of the chip down more because of the area needed for the pads to connect input/output and voltage supply pads to the rest of the circuit are near the size of the chip already. This article is a joke that does not explain the actual issues well and reads like a PR piece to boost Intel’s stock price.


burlyginger

Exactly. And the car manufacturers need electronics that are known to be durable and tolerant of some pretty extreme conditions. If you leave most modern electonics outside, covered from the elements (to stay dry), all day every day.. i am sure it wouldn't survive an arizona summer or Canadian winter. Electronics for cars need to be very durable.


ShortBrownAndUgly

Yup, same reason why the computers used in the space shuttle were old as fuck. They wanted durability and extremely thorough documentation built over decades of experience, not the latest and greatest that was untested. Bleeding edge isn't always best.


Taterbootz

I can tell you for a fact, in the military, cutting edge is usually shit. We need redundancy and ease of maintenance and repair. Bleeding edge tech is usually neither. Having to explain to salesmen that I dont want PLC's for my multi million dollar pumps but instead a system of relays is met with weird looks, but I also need my shit to work 24/7/365 because literally BILLIONS of dollars of national assets (not to mention the few hundred to thousand people on it) need to be kept dry the entire time. Enough that I have like 4 systems of redundancy just so I know when something is going wrong as soon as it goes wrong. Sometimes reliability and maintenance/repair are significantly more important than being 0.00000001 seconds faster to load a screen, or having everything available on a LCD (especially when I want easy to read and identifiable buttons that are easy to push in an emergency).


WhiteMamba27

great reply and all that but .0001 or whatever you stated faster is super incorrect. how about 5 full seconds faster with every click/input


Gurrnt

Trained at a plant built in the 80s, everything works great… Moved to a plant built in the last 5 years with a lot of fancy instruments, things start breaking when warranty ran out.


Taterbootz

Everything old we have can be fixed in minutes by anyone with parts we have on the shelf. Everything new requires us contracting out a tech (I'm .gov) which takes a couple months on its own because the government is oh so awesome at everything (that was laid on with the heaviest sarcasm I can possibly imagine laying on anything) and then they tell us theres a chip shortage and it'll be another year before they can fix it. And they wonder why I need relays and switches instead of computers. I'm okay with a 10 foot tall 20 foot long cabinet, I dont need everything to run on an ipad. I work for my uncle, he'll steal the land he needs to fit his computers.


Gurrnt

Yep, a lot of unrepairable proprietary cards and all that. Once spare boards aren’t there, we’re usually shit out of luck and have to wait a few months for new spares.


Cyhawk

Space-worthy electronics is for radiation hardening though. Bit flip errors even in fault tolerant systems is a serious issue in space.


standbyforskyfall

The computer in the perseverance rover is from the 90s iirc


Fabri91

The architecture it's based on should be the PowerPC 750 from the early iMac era, but the rad-hardened version used on spacecraft debuted much later.


Not_FinancialAdvice

> the rad-hardened version used on spacecraft https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAD750


molrobocop

>The RAD750 system has a price that is comparable to the RAD6000, the latter of which as of 2002 was listed at US$200,000 (equivalent to $287,771 in 2020).[[4]](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAD750#cite_note-BEASystemsthirdgeneration-4) Customer program requirements and quantities, however, greatly affect the final unit costs. Dang


midnightblade

> Exactly. And the car manufacturers need electronics that are known to be durable and tolerant of some pretty extreme conditions. Older chips like those used by automakers aren't magically more durable or tolerant of the elements. There are plenty of industrial and automotive designs on the market now that use more modern process nodes. Automakers just don't want to pay for them. It's a matter of cost, not capability.


AnonymousEngineer_

The newer chips may be offering functionality and complexity that is simply not required. Why should manufacturers of things like washing machines or TPMS sensors end up having to buy a full Snapdragon SoC from Qualcomm when a cheap part that has proven reliable is all that's required?


midnightblade

> Why should manufacturers of things like washing machines or TPMS sensors end up having to buy a full Snapdragon SoC from Qualcomm when a cheap part that has proven reliable is all that's required? Because manufacturers aren't required to support those chips forever. Either the automakers bring that manufacturing under their control or they spend the money to make sure they're keeping up with the times. But automakers don't want to do either. They want to pay the bare minimum for the chips they use which is what has put them in this situation to begin with.


the_lamou

Except you're pretending that we're comparing the latest and greatest chip to, like, vacuum tubes and physical relays. Which we're not. We're comparing the state of the art chips from the mid-2000's to state of the art chips from the mid-to-late-2010's. And the chips produced now can run at way higher temperatures safely - the Pentium D, for example, has a max safe operating temperature of like 65c (give or take a few degrees, depending on the exact chip.) My current AMD Ryzen 7 5800x is considered to be within "normal operating temps" at 90-95c. If you underclocked/under-volted a modern chip to get it to still be significantly faster than current automotive chips, it would have a ludicrous safety envelope. Yes, there are other considerations, but they're not really obstacles. They just cost money, and the automakers would prefer that anyone other than them would spend money. And given how high the supply for chips is these days, I'm not surprised that the fabs are telling them to go fuck themselves. So they're going to have to eventually transition, except that instead of being able to do it in an orderly and proactive way that maintains continuity and control, it'll be a half-assed mad scramble that results in a generation or two of total garbage as they try to half-ass things after being caught with their pants down and losing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Or basically how the auto industry does literally everything.


arcangelxvi

> If you leave most modern electonics outside, covered from the elements (to stay dry), all day every day.. i am sure it wouldn't survive an arizona summer or Canadian winter. Hell, it doesn't even have to be that extreme. I've had a few instances on trips to LA where my iPhone would overheat in direct sunlight while doing mundane tasks like browsing the web. Considering there are modules in a vehicle that are undoubtedly exposed to more heat than that it's not exactly the kind of behavior I want to see occurring on an important vehicle subsystem.


OptionXIII

Computers and cars are held to wildly different durability standards. Hell, most people I know get around 2 years out of a phone, that's not even a full development cycle on a car. If a phone lasted 5 years of temperature swings from -40 to 120f, people would be amazed at it's durability. Meanwhile if your car died after five years of that, you'd be incensed and telling everyone to never buy that brand.


hutacars

> Hell, most people I know get around 2 years out of a phone Usually due to a) battery and b) wanting the new shiny (and it being juuuust cheap enough to impulse-buy, or even fully subsidized by a carrier). If a vehicle's gas tank shrunk 20% every year and you could pick up a new vehicle every 2 years for free or even half off through your preferred gas station network, everyone would absolutely upgrade vehicles every two years.


OptionXIII

That impulse buy cost is part of my point. The more you spend on something, the longer you expect it to last. Again, I know of no one who expects they could leave their phone outside at -40 and immediately turn it on. Proven, durable tech is going to be a bit less cutting edge. And for most people, the touch screen isn't the main reason you buy a car. It's definitely the driving factor for most phone purchases.


the_lamou

Exactly this. This is almost exactly how leases work, and plenty of people lease cars for three years and then switch.


the_lamou

>If a phone lasted 5 years of temperature swings from -40 to 120f Umm, yeah, they do. Hell, I have a Galaxy S5 that still works when hooked up to a power source. And most phones will easily sit at 120f (about 50C) for hours without any real issues. Hell, most mobile chips are fine up to 70C or so. It's the batteries and the close proximity of the display that cause the biggest issues and the reason phones start throttling earlier than other devices. Batteries + high heat + handheld = bad time. But most consumer phones will easily go five years. They'll die a slow death from battery degradation and OS bloat long before the hardware stops being perfectly capable.


Chachimichonga

You can't make specific demands like that without paying a premium for it. Carmakers aren't willing to pay it, they're asking the chip makers to build production lines for chips that cater to them, while they're only willing to pay the same as customers who themselves change their products to fit the existing chips on the market.


Trollygag

>You can't make specific demands like that without paying a premium for it. Actually you can. There are only a couple fabs in the world producing really small feature size chips. The vast majority are set up to produce larger feature size chips the way car makers want because most electronics outside of your iPhone have more need for more durable/resilient/robust features And it has been that way for decades. And it will continue to be that way for decades more. The real issue is that domestic chip making capacity has been crushed by production prices from south and east asia, but when you suddenly can't get a supply line from those locations, you have major shortages. THAT is the issue. It has nothing to do with chip architecture and everything to do with the global trade slump and the major flaw that critical parts of our economy are deeply tied to the other side of the world. If the South China Sea shut down tomorrow, we would be royally fucked 6 ways to sunday no matter if every chip in any device shared the same feature service as what Intel is churning out for high end luxury electronics.


Daddy_Macron

> Actually you can. There are only a couple fabs in the world producing really small feature size chips. The vast majority are set up to produce larger feature size chips the way car makers want because most electronics outside of your iPhone have more need for more durable/resilient/robust features News to the car manufacturers that have had to delay or cancel an estimated 9 million vehicles since the pandemic began.


mklimbach

I mean, with plants shut down for months at the beginning of covid, most haven't even begun to catch up with their existing customers' demand, much less take on new ones. This is a global issue that isn't just affecting vehicles and isn't just a chip issue - just in time production and cutting the fat out of everything has screwed us now that a giant ripple in production happened and it's sending shockwaves everywhere.


Affectionate_Local59

Plants never shut down in semiconductors, with the exception of a couple plants at specific hot zones in Asia. Source: work at a semiconductor plant


Chachimichonga

>Actually you can. There are only a couple fabs in the world producing really small feature size chips. The vast majority are set up to produce larger feature size chips the way car makers want because most electronics outside of your iPhone have more need for more durable/resilient/robust features Then the car manufacturers are free to buy their chips from those companies. If they don't, intel or any other chip maker that isn't interested in doing business with them at the quoted price is free to turn them down. Free market baby!


BonelessChicknStrips

If they can, they would’ve avoided this problem already


StabbyPants

> Larger nodes are much better at being hardened against voltage spikes and other issues. or, use power electronics to do that job > Plus many chips used in cars are at the point where you can’t shrink the physical size of the chip down more because of the area needed for the pads to connect input/output and voltage supply pads to the rest of the circuit are near the size of the chip already. you can still run on a newer process and keep the same size packaging


psheljorde

Yeah, what does the die size have to do with the packaging? At that volume they can probably request any type of packaging that suits their needs.


TRS2917

Thank you! I get really tired of people complaining about their car's MMI while saying "But my phone..." Your fucking phone was designed to last 12-18 months and if it breaks its not going to endanger anyone's life. Cars have to operate in a much wider array of conditions and failure can be catastrophic. Military tech is the same way, the priority is on durability and reliability, not cutting edge features and tiny chip sizes.


ToastyMozart

Whose phones are dying because the *processor* goes kaput? It's pretty much always the battery, followed by loading too much digital clutter.


StabbyPants

it's MMI - that stuff can be built to last 5 years and be zippy the whole time, and also a 20 minute job to replace it if it goes bad


BonelessChicknStrips

When was the last time you heard of a processor breaking on a phone?


AnimeAlt44

It’s true, they don’t do everything carmakers want since carmakers don’t want to redesign chips to meet the new paradigm. But the reality is that the supply of cheap old designed chips has run dry and the forecast does not point to things getting better. Things can be done to work around the cons of newer processes but it requires work.


zeeke42

Also, there's no embedded flash at 16nm,so I dunno how they're going to make microcontroller on those fabs anyway.


dlang17

That kinda undercuts the issue. Just because the newest stuff is the faster and available doesn't mean it's better for the application. OEM have to balance several metrics such is durability, robustness to changes in environment/climate, efficiency, cost, etc. A cutting edge chip may not be able to satisfy the requirements manufacturers need in order to make a vehicle that meets customer expectations. It would be pretty shitty if you car wouldn't turn of just because of high humidity or a large temperature swing or a sudden voltage spike.


VENTDEV

Intel can make as many chips as they need, sure. But I'm not sure you as a consumer would want a more unreliable vehicle that costs $5,000-$10,000 more, with no noticeable benefit to you. ^1 Larger node sizes are more durable to stress, already tested and sufficient for their application, and most importantly, significantly cheaper than smaller nodes. The article mentions that production is held up for a $0.50 chip, they don't mention that it's 16nm replacement would probably run $10-$20 and that there are around 200 computer chips in a modern car. ^1 IMO, it'd be nicer if one of these Truck manufacturers went back into the stone age a little more. I personally wouldn't mind a more analog truck. Then again, I'm not one of these idiots driving around a Macho Minivan. ^1 Edit: $10-$20 is a bit of an exaggeration on my part. Likely costs would increase to $1-$2 per chip once you factor in design, taping, certification, testing, fab markup, etc. Also the number of chips in a vehicle I mention is low by modern estimation. Sorry, I've been out of the business for 11 years. Either way, it's a price increase with no noticeable consumer benefit.


JohnnyUtah_QB1

>and most importantly, significantly cheaper than smaller nodes. . They're only cheap when other industries are using those chips sharing the cost burden and the original equipment to build them is largely still working. But as other industries drop out of using them and equipment ages out requiring massive new investment by chip makers to keep them going that cheap price becomes untenable.


AnimeAlt44

They were only cheap for a period in time. 16nm is available now it is the new mature process with reliable methods and harsh condition hardening being researched and cheap costs. Intel isn’t gonna build another 150nm fab and carmakers have a choice in bankrolling someone else to get that capacity in years time or adapt and start building on 16nm chips that are available right now.


rsta223

>But I'm not sure you as a consumer would want a more unreliable vehicle that costs $5,000-$10,000 more, with no noticeable benefit to you. Reworking the chips to be on a modern process node wouldn't even come close to adding $5-10k to the cost. >they don't mention that it's 16nm replacement would probably run $10-$20 No moving to a newer node doesn't make a chip 20-40x more expensive. Historically, actually, it's the other way around. Newer nodes are substantially cheaper on a per transistor basis.


THEPOOPSOFVICTORY

Just wondering as someone who knows nothing about computer chips in vehicles, why are there so many? Is it for redundancy? Why can't they use one modern chip like a modern PC that's powerful and capable of controlling everything? Am I completely out of place?


VENTDEV

> Just wondering as someone who knows nothing about computer chips in vehicles, why are there so many? Think of how many electronic gismos you have in your car. Then think of all the car parts you used to think of as giant chunks of metal, and understand they've been replaced by computers. And then remember all the little sensors and stuff tacked on all over your car. Those all need to talk back to a computer. > Why can't they use one modern chip like a modern PC that's powerful and capable of controlling everything. They do have a big central computer, called the ECU or ECM. But do you really want the computer that controls your engine to also Bluetooth connection to your cell phone? Systems are separated to have redundancies, reduce costs, and simplify designs. You don't one a single computer processing data from thousands of different inputs in nanoseconds. You want to spread that processing out to cheap chips and only send back to the ECU when needed. Or close them from the other systems when possible (Window controls). Think of it like streets. If all connect into one road in a downtown city, there is going to be a lot of traffic there. (One computer). However, if you build many roads, all over the place, you only have to go to downtown when you need to. Sometimes you can stay in your neighborhood. Some roads might not be connected to downtown, but you can still go to the store. Some roads might even completely bypass downtown. Hopefully that makes sense. > Am I completely out of place? Sorta kinda, You're thinking in terms as a single computing device (computer, cellphone, game console). We're talking about an embedded machine made up of a lot of computing devices. But even so, did you know your personal computer has many different computer chips on it already. Motherboard chip sets, gpus, sata controllers, audio chips, bios chips, networking chips, bluetooth chips, wifi chips, etc. Last 20 years or so, they've been working some of these into the CPU, but you still have a good number of chips in your computer, most of them probably taped out on outdated nodes.


mklimbach

I would almost say the BCM (body control module) is more of the central one where the PCM/ECM are usually just engine or sometimes engine & trans (most modern vehicles have a separate TCM though) and everything powertrain related goes through them. The BCM ties that and everything else together. [Here's a diagram of the modules and their communication lines on our Pacifica Hybrid as an example.](https://i.imgur.com/LPONYoY.png) It's crazy how many computers really are in modern vehicles, although this might be an extreme example.


AnimeAlt44

the other person gave a good enough overview of why you would want a lot of distributed chips but your intuition isn’t off base either. Increasing integration into a single chip, putting systems on a chip (SoC) is something that is happening too. Tesla famously has a twin chip SoC that integrates a ton of functions, and uses the two chip format for redundancy.


VENTDEV

Being that other person. I will add to your comments, that in an electric car there is probably (i'm not entirely sure) less stuff to monitor with the propulsion systems. (Motors/batteries) than in a modern emissions regulated ICE vehicle. Less inputs means you can simplify the system (and lower costs) as a whole by building the functionality into single complex computer. We already see this in PC as I mentioned previously. North bridge, SATA controllers, GPU chips etc have all been designed into the CPU on most modern PCs. Back to the road analogy, Tesla only needs 10 lanes to run everything through downtown. ICE would need 50 Lanes. And that would be too costly make room to widen the streets to do that. Note, this is not to say Tesla only has 1 computer system. If I am not mistaken, they still split things out to different computer systems as needed. I don't follow them closely enough to say for sure.


AnimeAlt44

In theory yes, EVs have less to manage compared to modern ICE systems. But Tesla in particular kinda tosses this advantage away with their self driving thing that connects all kinds of sensors and functions. Yes, they too aren’t at the total SoC stage of everything on a single chip yet but I would be very surprised if their main computer has less interconnects than say an advanced ICE car main ECU. In the end it’s about trade offs and judging the correct moment to integrate or not. Many of the integrated components of modern computer SoCs was unthinkable to do economically in the past but at some point things changed. But also too eager SoC thinking got Intel to integrate their voltage regulator onto Haswell CPUs to disastrous effect. We can only judge if the choice was wise in retrospect.


manystripes

I've worked on automotive electronics both at an OEM and a supplier, and like so many things there are a large number of factors that come into this decision. As others have mentioned, the sheer number is due to microprocessors living in various different circuitry throughout the car, from the big heavy hitters like infotainment, engine controllers, etc, to the tiny piddly little 8 bit controllers that read the window switches in the doors. Also as others have mentioned these are heavily cost optimized, and don't need big powerful processors. One of the switch modules I worked on early in my career was running at 32Mhz on a 16 bit processor with 4kB of RAM, which was plenty for what we needed it to do. There are a other few things that drive that design though that should be highlighted. The biggest one is probably I/O and wiring complexity. It's helpful to get out of the mindset of thinking about these chips as just microprocessors, when by and large they're microcontrollers. The chip will be on a custom circuit board interfaced with all of the external circuitry that controller needs to control the system it's attached to. It's not uncommon for a simple module with motors in it to be controlling a dozen PWM channels to control motors (BLDC motors take 3 channels just to drive them), read feedback sensors, etc, in addition to extra circuitry to monitor those outputs to detect a fault. If you had a single central computer, you'd be running huge bundles of wires through the car, and that computer would have to have thousands and thousands of I/O pins of the right type (Analog, PWM, SPI bus controller, etc). Even things like your center stack switch module will have dozens to hundreds of I/O pins, as each button is individually read by a microprocessor pin with some buttons containing 2 or 3 pads that are all read independently for diagnostic purposes. Long wiring bundles make you more prone to EMC as well. Long runs of low current signalling, like a PWM signal that would drive a power transistor to run a motor, are prone to interference coupled on the line. Long runs of high current signalling actually emit interference since some of that power gets transmitted as radio waves that can be picked up other nearby wires, in addition to just adding more material cost to the car by needing long runs of heavy gauge cabling. Modularity plays a huge factor as well. Lots of modules are only needed with a certain trim level or option package, or may have a variant of the same module if the vehicle is optioned differently and has a different flavor of the system. Packaging the controllers inside of the actuators/sensors/switches makes things a lot more plug and play, and it makes it a lot easier to design a new system and drop it into a bunch of existing vehicles without tearing up the design of each one. Once it's out and stable, that system can just stay in production as-is on multiple vehicles for many years until either feature needs or outside forces (such as the above article is hinting at) drives the part to be re-engineered. The other big one off the top of my head is freedom from interference. Functional safety standards (such as ISO26262) require that you're able to demonstrate that any safety functions of your module can't be impacted by other functions running on the same module. Many of the beefier modules in the vehicle that have safety functions have been migrating to Infineon's Aurix platform primarily due to this purpose. It's a fairly modern multicore architecture (though still running at a piddly 300MHz or so) but Infineon hypes their ISO26262 certification of the safety mechanisms within the processor cores themselves. Naturally, the more things you cram into a single module the harder it becomes to keep things compartmentalized like that. Even more conventional concerns like RAM use or CPU load come into play, where you need to be able to determine what the absolute maximum worst case resource usage in the module will be with everything 'on' and show that you have a certain safety margin above that. The more things you have going on, the harder it is to determine what the worst case resource use is. Even in the rare case that the processor locks up or there's a memory error, the normal response is to immediately do a hard reset of that controller and start over from a clean state, which typically takes a fraction of a second. That particular function of the car may hiccup during that time but all of the other functions will be unaffected. That's about all off the top of my head. Sorry for the late and long winded reply, I hope at least some of it was insightful :-)


xKraazY

What's the end goal? Just have decade old chips in vehicles forever? Car manufactures will eventually have to put newer chips in their cars.


VENTDEV

> What's the end goal? Just have decade old chips in vehicles forever? Car manufactures will eventually have to put newer chips in their cars. Major processing upgrades will happen with EV's and self-driving tech. But even then, most of vehicles will still have chips powered by 20-40 year old nodes, because there is no reason to upgrade certified chips with limited responsibilities. You don't need an AMD Threadripper to read input from your window switch and roll down your car windows. You would be amazed at how many new and old 68000 and Zilogs from the 70s there are out in the world. Why? Because they're cheap, certified, reliable under stress, and more than enough to do the job. And those babies are on 3.5μm... (Funny enough, Friday, I replaced the control board for my 2010 dishwasher, and sure enough, Motorola 68000 cpu.) If there is enough demand for large nodes, eventually someone will fill the demand. If not, it might be wise for a parts manufacturer themselves to step into the field. Bosch for example would be a good one, since there is a lot of crossover with consumer appliance chips.


SpaceTacosFromSpace

I prefer my window up/down motors to be run on a separate docker image than my windshield wipers so I can reboot them separately if necessary


zeno0771

As someone with one foot in both these realms, I kind of like this idea.


hydrochloriic

I can guarantee that in almost any vehicle from the last 6-7 years this is almost true already. Just, in a hardware sense- the wipers have their own control module, as does each door and it’s associated controls.


crab_quiche

Yes. Newer does not mean better, as we get smaller and smaller nodes chips become a lot more vulnerable to higher voltages and current spikes.


mklimbach

Aren't they harder to cool as well?


uwuqyegshsbbshdajJql

*reads this while dissecting the entire 4096kb of binary that makes my entire engine operate under like 17 different ‘conditions’ with variable valve timing, adjustable valve lift, injection timing, ignition timing, boost control, throttle body control, knock monitoring, exhaust burble, drive by wire throttle, and so on* Yep. This could be done a lot better.


hydrochloriic

It could be, but… why? Speaking as an OEM, obviously. It meets regs, it drives smooth, it’s cheap.


1731799517

No, its basically: Car makers: We don't need your fancy high tech chips, cheap ones on older process nodes are totally fine. Intel: You have to get out of the stone age and buy our modern, expensive high end chips! The cheap old ones we stopped making because the profit margins are low are BAD!


faizimam1

Only half true. Intel's 16nm fabs are basically obsolete in 2021, no high tech devices use them. But they have the capacity to make billions of them a year. So Intel is willing to sell chips on those nodes for next to nothing. Price isn't the issue here. Certification and risk tolerance is. But at the end of the day, how much is that worth? Versus the cost of just designing a new 16nm chip?


tech01x

Intel: get out of the stone age and buy chips made from our bronze age production tech. We know you don't want to pay for the modern and expensive high end chips, so use our plentiful obsolete production capacity instead. They will still be cheap and it doesn't make sense to spend money on expanding capacity on even older nodes.


SamBBMe

If Intel has to spend billions to expand production of the cheap, older fabs, then they will no longer be cheap. The only reason they are cheap is because all the tooling is paid for, and would be wasted otherwise, so selling them for cheap is beneficial to them.


Chachimichonga

That's how the market works. Intel doesn't have an obligation to design chips for car makers. Running the numbers and dropping badly performing products is like business 101.


patchymoose

My god, Fortune’s website is so loaded with ads and popups. I had to disable JavaScript entirely and reload the page to have a pleasant experience.


-Tom-

The problem is CPU manufacturers won't warranty a chip for the operating conditions cars work under. Compared to your average computer usage cars operate at extreme temperatures (~-50F->150F+), varying exposure to humidity, extremely high vibration, jarring/impact, and exposure to a wide array of chemicals. Now manufacturers do their best to limit the exposure to the computer units and sealing them away but the fact remains that things need to be really well vetted before being implemented otherwise the car manufacturer sits on a huge pile of warranty claims.


kowalski71

It's not just the environmental conditions, these chips are subjected to pretty stringent functional safety standards and specs. Any flaws in the architecture are a big deal as a surprise reset or other hardware level failure can be deadly. Meanwhile the computational requirements to run an ABS system, engine control, or transmission don't significantly grow or change (automotive controls architectures are often designed for a single chipset and produced for a decade or more with small changes in IO, software features, and calibrations to match each application). Size isn't nearly as important as smartphones due to the packaging and overall size of cars. There's just no technical benefit for automakers switching to newer architectures and only safety risks. In fact, I'd argue that they're some of the highest production functional safety relevant chips in use. Aerospace doesn't have the volume, consumer electronics doesn't have the safety concerns. Maybe some corners of the medical device industry comes close but still at lower volumes. Edit: a follow up point is that these vehicles are costed down to the fraction of a cent. I've seen bonuses and promotions given out to engineers who save literal cents per vehicle. Until the chip shortages and global supply SNAFU of 2020, the fabs were perfectly happy to leave a paid-down factory on autopilot to make some old designs for the auto industry while the car manufacturers were stoked to save a few cents or bucks by not buying more processor than they needed or wanted.


-Tom-

Exactly. Lots of liability with a lot of risk and not a lot of reward.


Stuckinwell

For the record, these concerns are not new and definitely not the driving force behind the conflict mentioned in this article. Data center, machining, and scientific use cases for computing components have already addressed the physical stress limits mentioned above. If anything, look to the car manufacturers who are not looking forward to designing new engineering controls for these more expensive parts. To summarize the problem: carmakers want something cheap that works but most of the global chip market wants newer, smaller, faster. Market forces are driving suppliers further from these older products over time, which leaves a void. Normally, you might expect an upstart company to come take up that need but with the uncertainty in the car industry and low margins, the business case doesn't look great from this armchair-angle.


time-lord

> Data center, machining, and scientific use cases for computing components have already addressed the physical stress limits mentioned above. Where in the world are you going to find a data center that operates in the rain (not potable H20 but water mixed with road debris and chemicals), in 99% humidity, 100ºf weather, 0ºf weather, and gets vibrated on a near constant basis, and goes through constant thermal cycling?


Lookatmeimamod

Car engine bay operating temperatures are up to 220°f and Chicago recorded -23°f in 2019.


Grizzant

they can get industrial or military grade chips which are rated to those temperature regions. https://en.wikichip.org/wiki/ic_grade A lot of the conditions you listed (chemical exposure, high vibe, jarring/impact) are more related to the PCB the chips run on. the solution can be mechanical (like an enclosure with finned radiators for heat sinking) chemical (conformal coating a board) or a combination. edit: almost forgot automotive grade. but it is a broader classification if i remember correctly.


TheGentleman717

Most military equipment runs on tech from the 70s and 80s still. Only getting a few upgrades until it goes way out of date for the same reason mentioned above. They like to stick with what is known to work. Military grade chips are usually simpler and have less processing power (since they're older designs) because what they do is typically simpler and doesn't need to be fancy. (That makes it easier to be reliable as well) It makes them cheaper. The only ones you're going to find that are more powerful than a modern car is in something like the F35 or the new types of drones they're developing. And those are millions of dollars each to manufacture. Hell you're phone probably has more processing power then most of the chips on an F-18. Which isn't even that old.


Troggie42

yeah like, I literally build chips for military applications, and they're REAL old stuff. SOME parts of them are pretty new tech (some things are using some REAL fast fiber optics for example) but there's a lot of stuff that still uses old school ICs and even some through-hole resistors/capacitors because it has to be able to just WORK all the time, even if using a smaller IC could serve the purpose of the entire board easily, it might not have the durability required.


SamBBMe

Didn't the f18 come out in the 80s?


Grizzant

yes. but it recently has been modernized. E/F with block 3 if i remember right.


ZeePM

This is actually same problem preventing a restart of the F-22 line. The company that made the computers is long gone. At this point if you want to restart the line you need to validate a new suite of computer chips and in a modern fighter that’s where most of the cost is. You might as well design a new aircraft to go with it.


Jaque8

When I sold Toyota’s way back when I remember an engineer at the training event mentioned a Camry has more lines of code than an F18 fighter jet.


Troggie42

well that worked out well for Tesla's screens when they opted for industrial grade instead of automotive grade and the adhesive started seeping in to the edges and fucking em all up


davidline

I'm surprised no one has mentioned yet burn in test times on chips. Atleast where I work even 10nm chips have to have the batch tested for 4000 hours. When pandemic first hit we couldn't fill our capacity for testing and let go of about 50% of the company. Now it has exploded, they only want to hire Temps and building more test racks is not a good idea according to the arm chair analyst they listen to thats wrong every time but w/e.


hamrmech

Have a hard time feeling sorry for the automakers. Relentlessly screw your suppliers, and act suprised when you become their lowest priority.


Perception_Free

Same thing is happing in freight markets, especially ocean freight.


DrowningBronco

>Most systems in cars are safety-critical and need to perform in practically every situation regardless of temperature, humidity, vibrations, and even minor road debris. With so much at stake, tried and true is better than new and improved. Yeah exactly.


Mr6507

ITT: People confusing software bloat with hardware failure.


OmNomDeBonBon

As other people have intimated, the Forbes writer doesn't know what he's talking about. Embedded chips are always fabbed on extremely mature processes that are like 20 years old. As others have said, this is because: * Every likely bug in the design has already been identified * Less dense chips survive extreme conditions better - temperature, heat cycles, vibrations, etc. * Modern process nodes are more expensive per viable chip * Cars don't need the processing power of modern SoCs The people who want car chips to be fabbed on a modern node are Intel, because they're desperate for foundry customers to help pump their share price and paper over their failed technology strategy. Additionally, Qualcomm would love to sell hundreds of millions of extra Snapdragon SoCs a year, but into cars instead of phones/tablets/watches. Consider how often desktop CPU architectures have a bug which has to be fixed with microcode. It just doesn't make sense to introduce that much risk to **cars**, for no clear benefit besides "Intel and Qualcomm get to make more money from car OEMs".


thamasthedankengine

> The people who want car chips to be fabbed on a modern node are Intel, because they're desperate for foundry customers to help pump their share price and paper over their failed technology strategy. Additionally, Qualcomm would love to sell hundreds of millions of extra Snapdragon SoCs a year, but into cars instead of phones/tablets/watches. Intel wants them to use their 16nm fab, which is "modern" compared to what they use now but it's hardly new. They want them to use it because Intel isn't using it anymore, nobody else is using 16nm, and Intel can supply billions of chips a year if automakers were to use it.


BanterGander

As someone working in semiconductor industry with carmakers I can confirm. Decades old product has been already terminated, carmaker acts surprised why we do not increase capacity and guarantee another 10 years for it. But try explaining it to them.


2four

I imagine eventually the car manufacturers will get tired of being told their demands are obsolete and just buy up all the old machines for making chips and more fully vertically integrate. There are benefits to using old chips and I don't think they will just fold and stop using vetted tech just to be cutting edge.


TheWhiteFalcon

Making chips is a bitch, I doubt they'll take it in house.


BanterGander

Yes, with the complexity it's unlikely to have this inhouse, not to mention the huge investment that is needed.


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TheDutchTexan

How about no? You got all these old cars on the roads with those old chips and there is a reason for that. Because they are robust and last a long time. I'd rather not play silicon lottery with the chips in my car thanks. They need to outlive the car.


ondori_co

What a bunch of bollocks. There's one line in the article that is the sole reason behind this. Yet this dimwit blogspammer spends the rest of the article discussing un-related details. >designs that, at best, were state of the art when the first Apple iPhone launched The only reason he writer mentioned this is to be able to insert a link to other apple related articles. Otherwise this point has no sustenance nor is it true. Auto manufacturers need RELIABLITY, low cost-per-unit and long service life. The original iphone can't even connect to todays celluar network 2G/EDGE/GPRS network has been offline for years now. Whatever CPU the original iphone had is still much more capable than any chip that an car would ever need (aside from ADAS). My daily driver is from 2008 (NC Miata) first entered production in 2006. It's electronics are likely from early 2000s. Every single morning that car starts up and everything works. The fuel maps have never lost a bit. My 1992 Miata's ECU is older than most of the people on this subreddit. It's original ECU has survived -30c in Canada and +35c in New Orleans. It has never lost a bit. An automotive ECU reliability/repeatability/error handling is on par with the motion controller & PLC that are used to make 5nm chips. Your x86 & ARM CPU are [binned](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_binning#Semiconductor_manufacturing). An automotive "chip" is never binned. It matches spec or it's scrap. My 1992 Miata now runs a arduino based ECU, that is coded by some bloke in javascript. It's good enough for the girls I go out with. But you won't be seeing me swap out my low tech PLCs with arduinos & raspberry Pi's (my day job is designing industrial machinery).


wellifitisntmee

This makes the replacement parts for some vehicles even more concerning.


SymphonyNo3

Is it a reliable design if you can't find anybody to build it?


swagmastersond

*cries in Ford Sync 2.0/MFT


WSB_stonks_up

Laughs in Tesla MCU 3.