At the CES show in Las Vegas, Intel outlined a bold strategy to expand its AI capabilities into the automotive sector. This includes an agreement to acquire Silicon Mobility, a company specializing in system-on-chips (SoCs) for EV energy management, marking a significant step in Intel’s pursuit of automotive market growth.
Alongside the acquisition news, Intel introduced a new series of AI-enhanced, software-defined vehicle SoCs, with Zeekr—the automobile brand of Geely—becoming the first to implement this technology to power AI-driven in-car experiences.
Silicon Mobility Acquisition
Silicon Mobility is a fabless semiconductor company that specializes in developing software and SoCs for the automotive industry, with a particular focus on intelligent electric vehicle energy management.
Silicon Mobility’s offerings include SoCs that are integrated with industry-leading accelerators and advanced software algorithms, which are purpose-built for optimizing energy delivery in vehicles.
These SoCs are noted for their industry-leading accelerators, which are purpose-built for energy delivery and are co-designed with advanced software algorithms. This combination aims to deliver significant gains in vehicle energy efficiency.
By acquiring Silicon Mobility, Intel is extending its reach within the vehicle. This move is aligned with Intel’s broader goal of integrating artificial intelligence into the automotive industry, enhancing the capabilities of EVs in terms of energy management and efficiency.
The acquisition is still subject to the necessary regulatory approvals. Still, once completed, it will enable Intel to offer a more comprehensive suite of automotive solutions, from infotainment systems to advanced power management, further cementing its role in the future of mobility and vehicle technology.
New SOCs for Software-Defined Vehicles
Intel’s announced a new family of AI-enhanced SoCs for software-defined vehicles. The new SoCs integrate artificial intelligence acceleration capabilities drawn from Intel’s AI PC roadmap, which enables them to support a range of in-vehicle AI use cases.
Among the new features are driver and passenger monitoring capabilities, a feature increasingly sought after for its potential to enhance safety and user experience.
The new SoCs are part of Intel’s strategic push to lead the transformation towards highly adaptable and feature-rich software-defined vehicles. The AI capabilities within the SoCs allow various complex tasks to be performed simultaneously and efficiently.
For example, during a demonstration at CES, Intel showcased these SoCs running 12 advanced workloads concurrently across multiple operating systems. This included generative AI, e-mirrors, high-definition video conference calling, and PC gaming, all operating seamlessly in unison.
First Automotive Chiplet Platform
Intel announced a new, open automotive chiplet platform, offering a forward-looking approach to vehicle system design to foster innovation and flexibility within the automotive industry. The chiplet platform is based on Intel’s Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express, an open standard for chip-to-chip interconnect.
This platform will enable the integration of third-party chiplets into Intel’s automotive products, breaking from the traditional model of using monolithic SoCs.
The open chiplet platform concept allows for a mix-and-match approach, whereby automotive manufacturers can choose different chiplets, or modular semiconductor components, that can be combined on a single package to meet specific needs or performance requirements. This approach allows for faster and more cost-effective development cycles and the ability to upgrade and adapt the vehicle’s computing capabilities over time without a complete redesign.
Intel’s initiative also includes collaboration with imec, a renowned research and development hub, to ensure its advanced chiplet packaging technologies adhere to the stringent quality and reliability standards necessary for automotive applications. This is a critical consideration, given the automotive sector’s demanding conditions and safety requirements.
This open platform strategy could eliminate the risks of vendor lock-in for car manufacturers, promoting a more competitive and innovative market for automotive computing solutions. It also paves the way for a more scalable software-defined vehicle architecture, which aligns with the broader industry trend toward increased vehicle connectivity, autonomy, and electrification.
Intel’s foray into the automotive sector with its new SoC lineup and the acquisition of Silicon Mobility is a calculated move to capture a significant share of the burgeoning software-defined vehicle market. Introducing AI-enhanced SoCs tailored for automotive applications is an exciting approach that transposes Intel’s AI prowess from PCs to vehicles, addressing the complex computational needs of modern cars.
The new SoCs, promising to manage many advanced workloads, signal a paradigm shift towards more intelligent, integrated, and user-centric automotive experiences.
The acquisition of Silicon Mobility is particularly strategic, enabling Intel to integrate specialized EV energy management capabilities into its suite of automotive solutions. This broadens Intel’s automotive portfolio and resonates with the industry’s pivot towards electrification and sustainable mobility.
Furthermore, Intel’s commitment to an open automotive chiplet platform echoes similar modular design approaches gaining traction across the semiconductor industry. This open chiplet architecture could disrupt the traditional automotive supply chain by offering manufacturers the flexibility to develop custom solutions at a fraction of the cost and time associated with fully custom SoCs.
The success of its multifaceted approach may help propel the industry toward a more flexible, software-driven, and AI-powered future. However, the challenge lies in industry adoption. Intel’s ability to foster a robust ecosystem around its chiplets and convince automakers to adopt its SoCs will be critical to realizing this vision.
Automotive electronics is a fiercely competitive market with a growing cadre of technology companies staking territory. Companies such as Qualcomm and NVIDIA are taking a full-stack approach to solving the needs of the SDV space, primarily based on Arm-derived processors, while Intel is pursuing a more constrained approach focused on enabling specific silicon solutions.
Intel’s primary competitor, AMD, also has eyes on the automotive market. AMD recently announced new processor and FPGA solutions targeting the same markets.
Intel’s integrated strategy—combining new SoC developments, the strategic acquisition of Silicon Mobility, and pioneering an open chiplet platform—could position the company as a significant player in the automotive tech space. At the same time, Intel is taking a more limited, silicon-focused approach than some of its competitors.
The automotive industry moves at a glacial pace compared to traditional tech markets, with the time between a design win and revenue can be measured in years. Industry-watchers need to set expectations that we won’t fully grasp the success of Intel’s efforts in automotive for some time. Intel is making the right moves; we just don’t yet know how those moves will be received.