Tesla has navigated the world-wide automotive chip scarcity greater than most. It also pioneered employing a unified computer architecture. How are people items similar? What are the broader lessons below?
Of all the innovations Tesla has brought to the car field, not the minimum substantial is the unified laptop architecture utilised in its cars. This has enabled a lot of of the wonderful Tesla-only characteristics that homeowners rave about, and it’s not too considerably to say that it’s been a single of the company’s biggest competitive benefits. Now current events are highlighting what could be another key benefit.
Even though looking into my e book, Tesla: How Elon Musk and Organization Produced Electrical Cars Neat, and Remade the Automotive and Power Industries, I was lucky to be equipped to job interview Tesla co-founder Ian Wright, who offered some eager insights about Tesla’s units approach to its computer software, and this turned out to be just one of my preferred areas of the e book. I have referred to it in at the very least a dozen article content, and thanks to the ongoing semiconductor scarcity, it appears to be like I’m going to get some much more mileage out of it.
The youthful Tesla had roots in the Silicon Valley tech field, and its cars ended up intended with a single personal computer running system from the commencing. This was the opposite of the way the legacy automakers were being (and mainly still are) doing things. A standard legacy car or truck has a patchwork of separate pcs that management different programs in the car or truck. “I’m on the lookout out the window at my 2008 Volkswagen Touareg, and I wager that is obtained sixty or seventy electronic black boxes, three hundred kilos of wiring harness, and software from 20 distinctive firms in it,” Ian Wright informed me in 2014.
Consultancy Roland Berger not long ago told Bloomberg that automakers need to have to redesign cars and trucks to use fewer semiconductors. Automakers are hoping that the hated chip scarcity will wind down soon, but Roland Berger predicts that serious bottlenecks will persist as a result of 2022.
“Carmakers need to have to speed up the changeover to centralized electronic architectures and thus go to sophisticated and top-edge nodes,” the analysts said in a modern report. A shift to a central design with a single onboard pc could substantially lessen the range of chips wanted in a car. Roland Berger states the common car consists of some 1,400 different chips.
Indeed, readers, my interview with Ian Wright took area 7 a long time ago. He explained to me that the legacy automakers have been “struggling” with the software program design in their automobiles, and that if they ongoing to do items that way, they were being “going to have a dilemma.” Very well, now they have major complications. The consulting company AlixPartners approximated that the chip crunch price the automobile market some $210 billion in dropped income in 2021.
One more situation is that legacy automakers really don’t are likely to use the most up-to-date and finest chips. Section of the rationale for the provide crunch is that chipmakers are not fascinated in expanding the supply of the more mature-generation semiconductors that are used in most automobiles. If automakers would consistently update their chips, as builders of computer systems and purchaser electronics (and a certain California carmaker) do, they may find generation potential to be considerably less of a trouble.
EVs don’t always use much less semiconductors than legacy ICE vehicles — on the contrary, they are likely to use additional. EVs have to have to convert the AC electric power that arrives from the grid into DC, which is saved in batteries (vehicles that use AC motors, as some Teslas do, have to have to change yet again). This procedure is controlled by converter hardware, which calls for big numbers of chips.
As Transportation Dive experiences, a standard diesel-powered truck works by using all around 500 chips, but an electric powered just one could call for up to 5,000. The chip shortage undoubtedly has a little something to do with the delayed launch of the Tesla Semi. Final Oct, Elon Musk introduced nevertheless one more hold off, saying that Tesla “should be by our extreme source chain shortages” by 2023.
Tesla has navigated the offer crunch more nimbly than other automakers, and we know that at minimum element of this was because it was able to nimbly swap to more recent, additional quickly obtainable chips. “In Q1, we have been ready to navigate by world wide chip provide scarcity difficulties in aspect by pivoting really immediately to new microcontrollers, whilst simultaneously creating firmware for new chips made by new suppliers,” wrote Tesla in its Q1 2021 shareholder letter.
We can not know particularly how much of an advantage Tesla’s unified personal computer architecture is proving to be when it will come to working with chip shortages, but to paraphrase Herman Melville, there is almost nothing completely wrong with reporting a sensible surmise if there is evidence to assist it. A unified architecture is plainly superior. Tesla has it. Other automakers really don’t.
Laptop or computer components and software program are vital to the automobile field, and as the tetra-pattern (electrification, connectivity, autonomy, new ownership designs) proceeds, they’ll turn into ever much more vital. For Tesla, computing is a core perform, and this is nevertheless a different location in which the legacy OEMs need to catch up, or, as Mr. Wright predicted with traditional understatement, they are going to have challenges.
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