Intel acquires Silicon Mobility and announces new SoCs for auto

Intel expanded its repertoire further into automotive Tuesday with a deal to acquire Silicon Mobility, a fabless silicon and software company that makes SoCs for EV energy management.  But that was not all, and the question arose why Intel has taken so long to rev its automotive engine.

That acquisition news came alongside another Intel announcement of a family of AI-enhanced software defined vehicle SoCs with Zeekr to be the first OEM to adopt that new SoC for next-generation cars that deliver “living room experiences,” as Intel put it.

The announcements, made at a special event at CES 2024, were capped off by Intel’s commitment to provide an open chiplet platform so customers can integrate their own chiplets into Intel silicon. Intel said the chiplet concept will allow automakers to integrate a custom chip at a fraction of the cost of a fully custom SoC, adding that the ability to mix and match chiplets will lessen the risk automakers face of vendor lock-in.

With all the news, Jack Weast, general manager of Intel Automotive, asked Junko Yoshida onstage. She’s editor-in-chief of Ojo Yoshida Report and a well-known silicon reporter. She asked him whether Intel sees the car of the future as a smartphone on wheels or a PC on wheels or a living room on wheels, or even an office on wheels.  “A combination of all of them,” he responded.

She followed up with: “Why has it taken Intel so long?” And his response, “Better late than never.”

The bigger question on some minds was why Intel has decided to pursue such a big investment in automotive not long after spinning off Mobileye into its own business.  But it is obvious that Intel sees a way to provide auto-grade chips for all the entire industry with its own foundry operation, including Mobileye. And Mobileye technology could be used by Intel as well.

Weast partly addressed the Mobileye question by asserting Intel has rich experiences in PC development that correlate with how the future vehicle must become more digital and intelligent.  CEO Pat Gelsinger also appeared on stage with Weast to assure automotive companies that Intel is in the sector to stay.

“I need automotive customers that are long term and large,” Gelsinger said.

The open chiplet design would seem to help in that cause. “We can’t wait to see what kind of chiplets you bring to us,” Weast said, addressing some auto industry officials in the audience.