Microchips

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How a new generation of AI chips could speed up AV computing

Illustration of a car with loading symbols instead of wheels
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

AVs have to interpret sensor data, determine their next moves and follow through on them, all of which requires exceedingly complex AI. To meet those demands in real time, computing for AVs will have to happen onboard the vehicle.

Why it matters: The alternative to onboard computing for driving functions would be vehicles relying on unstable network bandwidth for cloud computing while cruising at highway speeds. A specialized AI chip market has emerged to create platforms that can perform these complex computations almost instantaneously, while using as little power as possible.

Chip sales had a record 2018, but a slowdown looms

Manufacturing a semiconductor wafer.
Manufacturing a semiconductor wafer. Photo: Alfredo Sosa/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Global chip sales rose nearly 14% last year to a record $468.8 billion, according to new numbers from the Semiconductor Industry Association. However, growth slowed significantly in the second half as the industry enters what appears to be a period of slower growth.

Why it matters: Chips are at the heart of all manner of electronics, from phones and PCs to broader markets like cars and appliances. Plus, unlike the gear they end up in, a significant number of semiconductors are not only designed in the U.S. but also manufactured here.

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