October 2, 2023

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Does Tesla’s Centralized Computer Architecture Have to have Fewer Chips?

4 min read

Tesla has navigated the world-wide automotive chip shortage much better than most. It also pioneered making use of a unified computer architecture. How are those people issues associated? What are the broader classes right here?

Originally posted on EVANNEX.
By Charles Morris

Of all the innovations Tesla has brought to the car market, not the minimum considerable is the unified computer architecture employed in its vehicles. This has enabled lots of of the great Tesla-only functions that entrepreneurs rave about, and it is not as well much to say that it’s been one of the company’s greatest aggressive advantages. Now present-day situations are highlighting what could be one more main gain.

Even though looking into my e-book, Tesla: How Elon Musk and Firm Created Electric powered Autos Interesting, and Remade the Automotive and Electrical power Industries, I was fortunate to be equipped to job interview Tesla co-founder Ian Wright, who offered some keen insights about Tesla’s programs solution to its program, and this turned out to be just one of my most loved sections of the ebook. I’ve referred to it in at minimum a dozen content, and many thanks to the ongoing semiconductor scarcity, it looks like I’m heading to get some extra mileage out of it.

The young Tesla had roots in the Silicon Valley tech marketplace, and its cars had been developed with a solitary computer working system from the beginning. This was the opposite of the way the legacy automakers ended up (and generally continue to are) performing issues. A standard legacy auto has a patchwork of independent desktops that management different devices in the car. “I’m looking out the window at my 2008 Volkswagen Touareg, and I wager that’s bought sixty or seventy digital black packing containers, 3 hundred kilos of wiring harness, and software package from twenty distinctive businesses in it,” Ian Wright advised me in 2014.

Consultancy Roland Berger a short while ago told Bloomberg that automakers will need to redesign cars to use much less semiconductors. Automakers are hoping that the hated chip scarcity will wind down soon, but Roland Berger predicts that significant bottlenecks will persist through 2022.

“Carmakers need to pace up the changeover to centralized digital architectures and thereby shift to superior and leading-edge nodes,” the analysts claimed in a current report. A change to a central design with a solitary onboard computer system could dramatically minimize the variety of chips required in a auto. Roland Berger claims the common car consists of some 1,400 individual chips.

Indeed, audience, my job interview with Ian Wright took put 7 decades ago. He instructed me that the legacy automakers had been “struggling” with the software style and design in their vehicles, and that if they ongoing to do factors that way, they have been “going to have a difficulty.” Perfectly, now they have massive troubles. The consulting firm AlixPartners estimated that the chip crunch cost the car business some $210 billion in lost revenue in 2021.

https://www.youtube.com/look at?v=je9At_CjubA

A further situation is that legacy automakers don’t tend to use the most up-to-date and greatest chips. Component of the cause for the source crunch is that chipmakers aren’t interested in increasing the source of the more mature-era semiconductors that are made use of in most vehicles. If automakers would regularly update their chips, as builders of computer systems and consumer electronics (and a selected California carmaker) do, they could obtain output capability to be considerably less of a problem.

EVs don’t essentially use less semiconductors than legacy ICE automobiles — on the opposite, they are likely to use far more. EVs need to have to transform the AC electrical power that arrives from the grid into DC, which is stored in batteries (vehicles that use AC motors, as some Teslas do, need to have to change once more). This method is managed by converter components, which needs huge numbers of chips.

As Transportation Dive reviews, a regular diesel-driven truck utilizes all-around 500 chips, but an electrical a single could demand up to 5,000. The chip shortage surely has something to do with the delayed start of the Tesla Semi. Past Oct, Elon Musk introduced still an additional hold off, indicating that Tesla “should be as a result of our critical provide chain shortages” by 2023.

Tesla has navigated the source crunch additional nimbly than other automakers, and we know that at the very least component of this was because it was ready to nimbly change to newer, more readily out there chips. “In Q1, we were being able to navigate as a result of world wide chip source lack problems in portion by pivoting really immediately to new microcontrollers, when concurrently acquiring firmware for new chips designed by new suppliers,” wrote Tesla in its Q1 2021 shareholder letter.

We just cannot know particularly how substantially of an gain Tesla’s unified computer system architecture is proving to be when it comes to dealing with chip shortages, but to paraphrase Herman Melville, there’s very little mistaken with reporting a sensible surmise if there is evidence to support it. A unified architecture is plainly better. Tesla has it. Other automakers don’t.

Computer system components and software program are crucial to the car industry, and as the tetra-trend (electrification, connectivity, autonomy, new ownership types) continues, they’ll grow to be at any time far more essential. For Tesla, computing is a main function, and this is but another place in which the legacy OEMs should capture up, or, as Mr. Wright predicted with basic understatement, they are heading to have complications.


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