By Stephen Nellis
SANTA CLARA, California (Reuters) – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co on Wednesday said it will release new software this year to help customers working on advanced computer chips for cars take advantage of its newest technologies more quickly.
TSMC is the world’s biggest contract manufacturer of semiconductors. Many of the automotive industry’s biggest chip suppliers such as NXP Semiconductor and STMircoelectronics NV tap TSMC to make their chips.
But automotive chips must meet a higher bar for ruggedness and longevity than the chips that go into consumer electronics. TSMC has special manufacturing processes for the automotive industry that typically arrive a couple years after similar processes for consumer chips.
In the past it has then taken automotive chip firms extra time to create chip designs for those specialized manufacturing lines. The result was that car chips could be years behind those in the latest smartphone.
At a conference in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, TSMC unveiled new software that will enable automotive chip designers to start work on their designs about two years sooner. That will enable those companies to use the automotive version of TSMC’s N3 chipmaking technology – which is the current state of the art in consumer devices – as soon as the automotive-grade variant becomes available from TSMC in 2025.
“Historically, auto stayed far, far behind consumer,” Kevin Zhang, vice president of business development at TSMC, said during a press conference. “That is the past. This allows our auto customers to start their designs much earlier – as a matter of fact, two years earlier than before this.”
Zhang said that before pandemic and ensuing automotive semiconductor shortages, automakers often left important chip technology decisions to their suppliers. But now, those suppliers and the automakers are often in direct discussion with TSMC.
“They fully realize they need direct exposure to silicon technology selection,” Zhang said. “Over the last couple of years, I have personally met many of the major automotive CEOs. …We work with them very closely upfront.”
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in Santa Clara, California; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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