Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd. [TSMC] just announced that it will launch a process qualification specification and service package for automotive-grade semiconductor manufacturing, a first for the auto-industry, at the China IC Design Conference which will be held in Xiamen on December 2, 2009. TSMC?s Fab 10 in Shanghai, China is ready to manufacture the ICs, in addition to TSMC?s multiple Fabs in Taiwan, will have the automotive process route ready for auto supply chain companies, including Chinese ones. From the TSMC press release: "Integrated circuits of all types are playing a larger role in the automotive industry. Our commitment is to support automotive IC technology including innovations that are taking place in China," said Jason Chen, VP Worldwide Sales and Marketing, TSMC. "We are backing this commitment with action by dedicating our efforts at Fab 10 in Shanghai to accelerate the growth of China?s automotive present and future."

Mercedes-Benz Comand 2.0 system was infamous for amount failures, almost exclusively blamed on stress that components couldn't handle. Picture Credit: R. P. Almeida
Mercedes-Benz Comand 2.0 system was famous for its innovation and infamous for the amount of failures, almost exclusively blamed on the stress that sensitive components couldn’t handle.

Basically, the inherent problem with the previous generations of chips is that they wear out prior to vehicle being scrapped, making for costly repairs. The lackluster lifespan of the ICs is due to the high stress environment that autos present. The automotive process specification, which has been made widely public as of November 27, 2009, was first proposed at the 2008 Annual Electronics Council. To ensure that the semiconductors will outlast the vehicle, TSMC is instating a comprehensive Automotive Service Package to reduce failure rate in addition to TSMC?s customer?s test methodology. The goal of the TSMC Automotive Service Package is to incorporate tightened process control, device level screen limit, and wafer sorting scrap criteria, additional SPC monitoring, preferred tools, etc. It significantly reduces process variation and outliers.

In a quote from Jason Chen "Integrated circuits of all types are playing a larger role in the automotive industry. Our commitment is to support automotive IC technology including innovations that are taking place in China," you can probably conclude that "sh*t has hit the fan" as far as automotive chips are concerned. "We are backing this commitment with action by dedicating our efforts at Fab 10 in Shanghai to accelerate the growth of China’s automotive present and future."

Computer chips in cars and trucks are playing a role in everything from regulating fuel efficiency and greenhouse emissions to safety by using collision sensors to trigger airbag safety systems. Oh and by the way, for the Michael Schumachers-in-training ICs are crucial in regulating horsepower and allow for greater speed once timings are tuned – hence the name ECU [Electronic Control Unit]. You can see how to upgrade your car or truck?s onboard computer if you?d like to squeeze some easy horsepower out of your current ride or increase fuel efficiency. Or just about any number of other important things. BSN* is not responsible for any speeding tickets you may incur while joyriding, however donations will be graciously accepted as a thank you for your increased fuel savings.

China is currently the world?s second largest market for auto sales and is poised – or at least predicted by auto market analysts – to overtake the United States of America this year, 2009, as the leader in automobile sales. The USA is ranked first, China in second [having just surpassed Japan two years ago] and India places third. With Chinese and Indian populations both estimated at over a billion people each and both are predicted to increase in population as well as in the number of middle-class citizens, it is easy to see how the USA will be relegated to third place sooner rather than later.
 
Many concerned eyes are fixated on China as the rising socioeconomic status of average Chinese citizens they are finding their voice as evidenced in a mass environmental protest staged in southern China. China is not bound by the Kyoto Protocol concerning greenhouse emissions [which former U.S. President George W. Bush infamously pulled the U.S. out of] since China is considered a developing nation despite the torrid growth of the Chinese economy and its large population. That attitude is now changing with legislation brought forth by Barrack Obama and Ma Ying-jeou, two new presidents of world’s largest automotive markets.

There is no secret that the improved ICs are necessary in order to improve fuel consumption efficiency. In that perspective, it is good to see TSMC finally going a long way towards improving fuel economy and reducing greenhouse emissions and it also wouldn?t hurt if the new chips lengthened the lifespan of the vehicle.