Automakers may Limit Connected Car Functions in Chip Drought

The global semiconductor shortage could force automakers to reduce connected car functions and risk distancing the vehicles from advancing smartphone capabilities.

That’s the warning from UK software provider, VNC Automotive, which believes the global semiconductor shortage will have far-reaching and long-lasting effects with a greater impact on the automotive industry than the Covid pandemic. Tom Blackie, founder and CEO, said the fear is that automakers may choose short-term vehicle sales targets over long-term ambitions to extend the services and functions available in connected cars and “simplify” vehicles with fewer semiconductors installed.

He said: “Suppliers and OEMs may now be forced to simplify their designs to use fewer complex components that are still available and we’re concerned this will lead to a reduction in functionality at a time when consumer expectations have never been higher. It’s also possible that systems hurriedly-adapted to use a simpler component set may quickly be left behind as future generations of mobile phones cease to support the older platforms they may be built on.”

Blackie pointed to the concerns being voiced by his company’s customers desperate to find ways to find semiconductors for their products. He explained: “In conversations with clients and suppliers, it’s become clear that the effects of the semiconductor shortage will long outlast the pandemic and will, potentially, have a far more serious impact on sales and future development. Some of our suppliers are seeing prices for chips that are more than 30 times higher than before, and at that level, their use is no longer sustainable.

“We’re even seeing vehicle buyers and fleet operators having to consider purchasing models that aren’t on their preferred lists because that’s all that’s available. At a time when the industry is asking people to consider making the switch to EVs, supply restrictions are leaving them frustrated.” He concluded that his company is currently looking at ways it can improve the situation for its customers by replicating much of the processing normally performed in silicon with rapidly deployed software instead.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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