The market for automotive chips is an increasingly crowded field. And most major chip manufacturers, including Intel and Qualcomm, are trying to translate their success in personal computers and smartphones into car electronics.
Mediatek, the biggest supplier of chips to China’s mobile phone industry, does not want to be left out. The chipmaker last week outlined its initial strategy for automotive chips, saying that its products will help cars visualize the road and share their location over the internet. The first samples will be available in the first quarter of 2017, the company said.
The Taiwanese chipmaker is known for selling processors and cellular chips in low-end phones in China and India, as well as products for televisions and tablets. But it has always strived for the international clout of adversaries like Qualcomm and Samsung. The company has gone so far as to make overly powerful smartphone chips with eight computing cores to grab some of the spotlight.
Now the chipmaker is looking to bring its experience to the automotive market. It is aiming to provide chips for car entertainment, connectivity, and millimeter-wave radar to enhance vehicle safety. It also hinted at a vision processing unit that will carry out tasks like tracking highway lanes.
If those parts seem complementary, that is what Mediatek intended. “MediaTek will bring one integrated package of semiconductors to the market,” said J.C. Hsu, general manager of the new business unit, in a statement. It is “a holistic solution that is now lacking in the auto industry."
To fill that technology gap, chip makers are willing to spend billions on new technology. Qualcomm has made the most drastic move, buying NXP Semiconductors, the world's biggest automotive chip seller, for around $47 billion including debt. The deal has the potential to fundamentally alter Qualcomm, giving it access to factories and storerooms of automotive chips.
Others have responded. While Samsung bought automotive audio supplier Harman for $14 billion, Intel recently vowed to invest $250 million in autonomous driving over the next two years. The world’s largest chipmaker has also created a new business unit for self-driving cars and staffed it with former automotive executives.
Mediatek has not been the subject of similar headlines, but its new strategy builds on Mediatek chairman Tsai Ming-Kai's pledge to invest more than $6 billion over the next five years into self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. The company has also reserved 100 engineers to work on 5G technologies, some of which could be used to connect cars.