[News] Changan Auto Launches IC Design Company: Tracking Chinese Self-made Auto Chip Trend

2023-10-26 Emerging Technologies editor

In the wake of a semiconductor shortage, Chinese automakers have veered onto the path of self-developed chips over the past two years. Recently, Changan Automobile, in collaboration with the Chongqing High-Tech Industrial Development Zone and the Intelligent Manufacturing Industrial Research Institute, established Chongqing Xinlian Integrated Circuit Co., Ltd. This venture, boasting a considerable registered capital of 8.7 billion yuan, signifies a substantial investment from Chongqing’s state-owned entities and major automobile manufacturers. It is dedicated to advanced production of 12-inch large-scale integrated circuits.

Changan is not alone in this endeavor; companies like Geely, GAC, BAIC, BYD, and others have embarked on self-development plans or have chosen to enter the chip manufacturing domain through partnerships. Emerging forces in the automotive industry like XPeng, NIO, and Li Auto are also opting for self-developed chips.

The Rise of Self-Developed Chips

Tesla stands as the pioneering automaker in developing its self-driving chips. Industry insiders suggest that their decision was fueled by the inadequacy of chip suppliers like NVIDIA and the ample funds generated from Tesla’s surging sales. Their approach has been widely recognized by the market, prompting others to explore this direction.

In the realm of self-developed chips, different car manufacturers adopt diverse strategies. Companies like Tesla, XPeng, and NIO, renowned for their self-developed algorithms, focus on high-performance chips.

An industry source emphasized that car manufacturers prefer to stress full-stack self-development, but off-the-shelf chips cannot fully leverage the advantages of self-developed algorithms. Thus, powerful companies opt for customized chips to align with their proprietary algorithms. This underscores the need for automakers to possess robust capabilities in autonomous driving software and algorithms.

Notably, NIO has assembled a 300-member chip team, focusing on self-driving and LiDAR chips. XPeng’s chip team is developing high-computing power self-driving chips similar to Tesla’s FSD chip. Furthermore, Li Auto expanded its chip team and collaborated with Sanan Optoelectronics to establish a power semiconductor production line in Suzhou.

In contrast, traditional domestic auto manufacturers often commence their self-developed chip ventures with power semiconductors due to their higher onboard usage and relatively lower development complexity. Several carmakers have partnered with chip companies for mass production collaborations. Horizon Robotics, for instance, has signed mass production agreements with mainstream auto manufacturers like BYD, Great Wall, Li Auto, and Changan.

(Photo credit: Changan Automobile)