The current market for autonomous vehicles tugs at the same strings that drew throngs of viewers to the Knight Rider series. KITT was not just a cool prop to many who grew up watching that show; it was aspirational. I can speak from a place of personal experience that I went from sitting in cars that required you to turn off the AC when climbing steep hills to driving cars that “crawl” their way out of sand almost completely on their own. What is driving this explosion of utility and enhanced driver experience in today’s cars is the electronic content in cars. According to PwC, by the year 2030 – electronics will account for 50% of the total cost of a car. This means users will interact with cars more like they interact with their phones today. KITT is real. The move from bolts and screws to wires and sensors is incomplete without a key component that I wanted to focus on – MLCC’s. Multi-Layer Ceramic Capacitors are useful on an electronic circuit to help pass alternating current without passing direct current, they can also be used to store and release varying amounts of electricity in a circuit. MLCCs are usually 0.5 mm and smaller. They can be found everywhere from the Powertrain to the Infotainment system. The Safety systems already need extensive MLCCs which means they are found even in the chassis of cars
The exciting and unique case for MLCC’s in vehicles, however, is that they need to adhere to specific rules and regulations very different from those required for MLCC’s say in a smartphone. The reason for this is, unlike a smartphone, car electronic components need to adhere to stricter safety standards. Also, cars are expected to perform in everything from the Arizona heat to the Siberian winter. Their testing and quality inspection is a very niche field where volumes are in the millions because of how many different kinds of electronic circuits these can go on. The AEC Q200 standards detail specific electrical, mechanical and environmental performance standards for automotive MLCC’s that help extend the life of these components because like the earlier example- the life of a smartphone is maybe 2-3 years by current standards on average; the life of a car, on the other hand, is sometimes 3 to 5 times that length of time. MLCC sizes may be larger than those used in consumer electronics, but they need to be more robust and store larger and larger amounts of electricity.
When you drive your car out the parking lot today and get on that freeway ; slowly start to drift outside of your lane and your car auto-corrects and straightens out, remember, Its many thousands of tiny MLCC’s in addition to electronic components that help your car’s ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) that let you feel like Hasselhoff in Knight Rider!
Khaja is a strategic analyst who tracks the macro footprints of emerging technology and their impact on consumers. He helps inform decisions at the Strategic Marketing function at ESI with a data driven approach to better understand the impact of technology on our customers and competition. His work helps ESI build better capital equipment for our customers to better serve their space through miniaturization, faster and better yields. He also loves reading about world cultural history and geopolitics. He has an undergraduate degree in Engineering and a Masters in International Management.
You can follow him @Tech_Make