Auto chipmakers are more optimistic about a COVID recovery in latest survey

Self driving car
Auto chipmakers see the glass a little more than half full for selling chips to enable self-driving tech. (Getty Images)

Auto chip makers focused on self-driving technologies are more optimistic about a recovery from COVID-19 than they were three months ago, according to preliminary results from recent survey conducted by research firm IHS Markit

“In general, survey respondents tended to be more optimistic about automotive semconductors recovering from COVID-19 than they were three months earlier.  Many are already seeing demand coming back, which is a good sign,” said Phil Amsrud, an analyst at IHS Markit said in an email on Friday.  “Determining which programs to support is a function of having money and resources…and having confidence there will be a market to support.”

Results in the latest IHS Markit poll of 30 companies contacted in July are still being finalized, he said.    An earlier survey on the same topic done in April with 46 auto chipmakers found nearly 65% were expecting a delay in technology deployments in upcoming product launches. 

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Related:  Lyft engineer sees self-driving as long game, calls for public prediction data

The latest survey also found no signs of upcoming supply chain rationing (or allocation) of orders from customers such as carmakers, unlike during the 2008 financial crisis. “The industry doesn’t have to spend resources trying to address supply chain issues,” he explained.  “That fact coupled with signs that the industry is starting to recover in 2020 and into next year should increase the confidence in the market overall for ongoing R&D spending” in assisted and autonomous driving tech.

Despite such confidence, Amsrud said he still expects auto chip revenues will be down for all of 2020 compared to 2019, which means R&D budgets may be reduced.   Car sales have been down in the 30% range for major carmakers and some auto chipmakers have seen that segment down 20%.

As a result, level 2 ADAS chip research and development will get a higher priority than Level 4 high automation work, he predicted.

Amsrud also believes there will be fewer resources in general in 2021 and 2022, leading to a general industry reprioritization.  However, no company heavily involved in self-driving work plans to abandon the endeavor over the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic, he said, quoting one semiconductor supplier.

Vladimir Iglovikov, a level 5 senior computer vision engineer at Lyft, recently described the development of autonomous vehicles as a “long-term game, a question of years, or even decades,” in comments to Fierce Electronics.

 Vladimir Iglovikov will appear with other experts on a Fierce AI Week panel on Wednesday August 12 at 11:30 a.m. EST. The virtual event is free and starts Monday.  A full schedule and registration are online.

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