EDA Industry: A Catalyst for change in the Automotive Space

Date:   Wednesday , January 02, 2013

Headquartered in Wilsonville, OR, Mentor Graphics, Inc (NASDAQ: MENT), is a multinational corporation dealing in electronic design automation (EDA) for electrical engineering and electronics. With a market cap of $ 1.82 billion, the company is one among the 'Big Three' in the EDA industry.

As the automotive industry awakens to the need of technically advanced designs, it provides a much needed boost to the EDA industry. Leading producers such as TATA, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ashok Leyland among others are leading the charge by being the early adopters of design automation. The central theme of change for today is central design. Complexity has increased manifolds, thus system design techniques have to be applied to chip design. More system design companies have to adopt EDA techniques to design systems.

Opening for EDA players in the automobile segment

There are Opportunities galore owing to standardization. GENIVI is a big standard. It enables companies to get together and develop basic range of products that can be used across a wide range of vehicles. Earlier every automotive company had custom infotainment for their vehicles and they had their own tier 1 suppliers. Now with open standards there is more opportunity to automate design and develop better products.

The opportunity for EDA players arises because the tool inflow being used in the automotive industry is outdated. Cars today have most problems with the electronic and electrical parts. These short comings must be fixed eventually since the complexity will amplify.

Indian automotive industry is adapting to the change

Mentor Graphics has been providing design automation tools connecting the wiring of the car since 1992, but the rate of adoption has been moving at a glacial pace. The last decade has witnessed electronics become extremely complex and manual designing is unachievable. Mentor Graphics has captured most of the market for automated design sector but it is an enterprise product and it starts with the concept of the car and includes the engineering and material of the design. The total time required to adopt these processes is very high.

A car today has more cost of electronics than any other subsystem in the car. Several companies have vast experience in wiring. One company may have a set of constraints different from the other company. It is also a very time consuming process. Organizations can overcome these predicaments by adopting Mentor Graphics’ tools.

A revolution is coming about in the sphere of car design. It necessarily must be verified and maintained under environmental, safety and cost constraints. Only electronic design automation can help minimize the cost and boost efficiency.

Much work needs to be done at the end equipment level. Indian car and truck manufacturers need to move ahead and be early adopters of design automation for vehicle electronics. TATA, Mahindra and Mahindra, Ashok Leyland, Motherson etc are some names that are making the transition.

Complexities in the process

Change is always a difficult process especially when it involves time constraints. A design that had to be done in five years earlier, now has to be completed within less than three years.

The automotive industry is extremely process and manufacturing driven. A tool flow to work has to be adapted to their particular flow and needs. There is also no wriggle room for errors. The issues can be best addressed by a company like Mentor Graphics, rather than a mechanical company.

Semiconductor Startups and the Indian Perspective

Having the mobility to go on and start companies is very healthy and promotes innovation. This trend is still in its infancy in India where stability in employees is present but there are fewer startups. The perfect balance should be achieved so that organizations can depend on their workforce without hampering the streak for innovation.

An entrepreneur must keep trying. To be a part of a successful startup people must get comfortable with the idea of failing at times. In the San Francisco Bay area, it is an acceptable trend than an entrepreneur would have been a part of other failed companies. But failure is looked down upon anywhere else in the world. The idea must also be scalable, which can attack an equipment market where you have some leverage. The odds improve if you have had some experience working for established companies. Another issue pulling Indian semiconductor startups down is the lack of domestic end equipment businesses. A semiconductor startup requires working closely with customers. Therefore a Multinational setup will work well in India where the team is spread around the world to focus on international customers.

Trends to lookout for in the EDA industry 2013

India still is the primary destination for outsourcing design responsibilites. Especially for place and round verification up through complete end to end chip design. India has a lot of smaller companies that cater to specialty design in chip market and this trend will be on an upswing in the future.

Emulation will be the fastest growing sector of EDA. System design, more high level design, ESL (Electronic System Level Design), the growth and sophistication of design for test is going to go through a sea change. The expansion of physical verification from simple rule based to complex electrically programmable verification will also be witnessed. Low power design, power integrity; signal integrity will continue to grow.

Functional verification is another area that is receiving increasing interest. It helps avoid major problems with the final design. In also enables organizations to design an effective vehicle which utilizes the electronics and reduces the cost while improving reliability, environmental regulatory compliance along with safety.

New vistas for growth

For several years Mentor Graphics has focused on low power design at the chip level and also at the physical and logical level. People are increasingly adopting this method at the system level and that will be a major thrust in the emulation segment. In the simulation segment, intelligent test benches which are in their infancy will become much more widely used in the coming years. Technology to implement the Auto SAAR standard is a rapid growth area for next year.

The challenge always lies in doing more for less and we aim to work towards anticipating future crisis. We develop solutions before they become a requirement. Doing all this with limited resources is always a challenge but Mentor Graphics is always up for a battle.

(Based on a conversation with Waldhen C Rhines during his recent visit in India)