Arm expands automotive footprint with advanced processor IP, RISC-V faces uphill battle

Jay Liu, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0


Arm has unveiled a significant expansion of its presence in automotive electronics, introducing server-grade automotive enhanced processor IP alongside software development platforms and computing subsystem roadmaps. This move has attracted nearly all traditional IDMs and IC design giants in the automotive field, to join Arm's automotive system IP ecosystem.

Currently, approximately 70% of global automotive chips are Arm-based. With the ongoing strategic advancement, Arm aims to stay ahead of escalating computational demands in automotive electronics, heaping heavy pressure on competitors, particularly RISC-V.

RISC-V, renowned for its open-source architecture and streamlined design, has gained traction in the semiconductor market. Concerns about Arm's potential market monopoly have driven many IC designers to invest more in RISC-V technology development.

This trend has led to the emergence of RISC-V joint ventures, like Quintaruis among Qualcomm, NXP, Infineon, Bosh, and Nordic, with automotive electronics seen as promising for the ventures to excel. The automotive chip market still has many untapped applications, and its ecosystem is relatively chaotic, making it more suitable for RISC-V development than other applications.

Despite RISC-V's appeal, industry experts noted that leading automotive chip manufacturers now predominantly rely on Arm architecture or instruction sets for their products. Arm's established ecosystem, honed through experience in mobile devices, offers cost-effective solutions amid increasingly complex automotive chip requirements. Although licensing costs have risen, they remain manageable when distributed among stakeholders.

While Arm maintains its stronghold, industry players emphasized that RISC-V won't entirely lose its stage in the automotive market. As Arm delves into advanced product lines like automotive high-speed computing, RISC-V may carve out niches in large-scale and complex automotive chip products with its simpler design concept.

According to market observations, industry players hope to have more different architecture choices, but expectations of RISC-V directly challenging Arm in automotive remain unfulfilled, signaling their coexistence rather than direct competition for a while.