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The Rise of the Automotive Domain Controller: When, Where and How?

by Asif Anwar | 6月 07, 2021

Implementation of domain and zonal controller-based architectures remain at an early stage, and while Strategy Analytics forecasts overall domain controller penetration will approach 60% by 2028, the Strategy Analytics Powertrain, Body, Safety & Chassis Service (PBCS) Service report “The Rise of the Domain Controller: When, where and how?” notes the push towards centralized architectures and the subsequent use of domain controllers is occurring at different take-up rates.

Present vehicle architecture topologies typically consist of various ECUs feeding into a single central gateway controller, which in turn feeds data to the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port. The various ECUs are then connected to actuators, sensors and displays.  Current vehicle architectures tend to use simple point-to-point topologies consisting of individual ECUs linked to a small number of actuators and sensors with little need to connect with other ECUs in different domains.

Current distributed, decentralized vehicle architectures incorporate one electronic control unit (ECU) per function / feature, typically a new ECU is added each time a new function / feature is added. With low end vehicles having 50+ ECUs, mid-sized vehicles 80+ ECUs and high segment vehicles with 110+ ECUs – the current vehicle architecture has over time become increasingly complicated, heavy, difficult to package and expensive to incorporate. As more features become standard equipment fitted to vehicles, OEMs are looking at how a move to centralized architectures can reduce the shortcomings and costs related to a distributed E/E architecture. This move towards centralized architectures is expected to be staged with domain and zonal controller-based architectures acting as a precursor towards a fully centralized architectures being realized.

However, there is no wholesale move towards centralization of automotive E/E architectures in place and while the intent is there, actual implementation is occurring on a piecemeal basis with individual OEMs. Similarly, there is no concerted effort towards domain-based or zonal-based architectures. The penetration of domain controllers for infotainment and ADAS is driving the initial implementation and being joined by domain controllers for the powertrain market. Non-traditional OEMs, e.g. Tesla, Nio, Xpeng etc., with a focus on electrification and autonomy/automated driving are leading while legacy OEMs such as BMW, Ford and Toyota have taken a more conservative approach.

Domain Controller Market Penetration 2019-2028

So, while Strategy Analytics forecasts overall domain controller penetration will approach 60% by 2028, there is no concerted effort towards domain-based or zonal-based architectures. Electrification is a primary catalyst driving the move towards new vehicle E/E architectures and providing the growth opportunities for cockpit and ADAS domain controllers. Additionally, it is expected that xEV powertrain domain controller requirements will propel the introduction of Vehicle Control Units (VCUs).

Domain controller shipments from Aptiv, Continental, Harman, Visteon and others will grow at a CAAGR of 63.3% over 2020 – 2025 with the associated demand for semiconductor compute resources as well as associated memory and networking translating into a semiconductor market opportunity for the likes of Infineon, Huawei, NXP, Renesas, Texas Instruments and others worth over $6.4 billion by 2028.

Check out the report “The Rise of the Domain Controller: When, where and how?” for the full analysis and thanks for reading!

Also, don't forget to join our forthcoming webinar to review in-depth EV analysis from the market to systems and enabling semiconductors. Attend the event.

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Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this post and the underlying questions raised. For more information on Strategy Analytics’ extensive coverage of the automotive industry, take a look at the PBCS (Powertrain, Body, Chassis & Safety), AVS (Autonomous Vehicles Service), AIT (Automotive Infotainment and Telematics) and ACM (Automotive Connected Mobility) services.
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