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  • Chris Bratton - Tech Journalist

EV ‘feature bloat’ becomes another reason for chip shortage?

Amid the global chip shortage, the CES 2022 brought new insights into electric vehicles (EVs). EVs are also getting more intelligent, and chip implementation seems necessary. Feature bloat looks like on the EVs though manufacturers compete to gain customer traction.

With the market warmup of plug-in hybrids, EVs, New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) features are part of the action. Though people see Tesla and Rivian vehicles as the standard forms of EVs, other players are in the market. In China, where these trillion-dollar companies set up manufacturing plants to build their vehicles, native companies also grow.

With machine learning and artificial intelligence built-in, chips are necessary parts for the build. But the questions remain, are automakers building their chips or just hoarding over the existing ones that have already tried to cope with demand.

The 2022 CES showed future visions for cars, and surveys were performed to collect company assumptions. As automakers currently are ‘feature bloating’ their vehicles, are they making their chips? The answer is both yes and no. Being one of the first successful electric vehicle manufacturers, Tesla automakers use silicon carbide (SiC) chunks for their mass production.

A panel of experts predicts that automotive software’s annual growth will be double-digit by 2030. After that, a new era may arise, and we may adjust to the new features.

In the CES 2022, Panasonic showed off an augmented reality display with head-up eye tracking. Eye-tracking technology is often used in cameras, and within the last few years, we saw consumer-grade products in gaming specially designed to work with the eye-tracking feature. ELS Studio 3D audio system is integrated with the display. Twenty-five speakers powered by 1,000 watts constantly with feature bloats.

BMW’s show off with their futuristic model is not uncommon. We saw clips on the internet that the car constantly changes exterior colour with the remote control mechanism. Exterior paint changing and displaying digital art on them is fascinating. All these require intelligent computing and thus powerful chips.

Though the new tech is coming every few days, there is no use if that doesn’t benefit customers. It becomes an actual collision course when new products demand the same supply where previous products are still waiting in the queue. CEO of Altia, Mike Juran, said ‘we don’t have chip shortage, we have software bloat.’ The software bloat includes a graphical user interface, designs, tools, and parts of the program. As there are many unnecessary tools and software’s out there, quality control becomes tough.

Vice president of Altia Michael Hill talked about Chevrolet Volt, introduced in 2011. The plug-in hybrid had 10 million lines of code. Today, mid to high tier electric or plug-in hybrids have approximately 100 million lines of code. These codes run in real-time to support the driver and passengers, requiring powerful chips.

Today’s automakers use state of the art technology, chips, and software in their products, and we haven’t peaked in the technology yet. Lucid Groups senior VP of digital Mike Bell talked about the ‘hardest thing to figure out,’ which is the feature set and sticking to it in the long term.

Faithful automobile buyers are not here for the fancy software as the expectation lies elsewhere. Features are great to have, but some are not a must. Automakers need to keep that in mind before building the next spaceship in a four-wheeler form factor.

Though premiums sound, heated seats, and wireless charging are some of the basic’s automakers cover today, the desire to own a high-tech car will fade away soon. If it gets the job done from a to z perfectly, then it’s more than enough.


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