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Underrated qualities: semiconductors in the car


Audi Progressive SemiConductor Program

The technology itself may not look that impressive, but its significance for the car of the future is immense: semiconductors are the source of innovations. Already over 80 percent of all new technologies are made possible because of them. Audi’s awareness of this significance has prompted it to invest in the future of microelectronics in launching the Audi Progressive SemiConductor Program.

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Immense significance for innovations: semiconductors

Piloted driving and a car’s connectivity with its environment – these and other topics epitomise the latest trends and developments in the automotive industry. Semiconductors are at their very root. Large Audi models already have as many as 6,000 semiconductor chips at work. These perform a vast array of functions, including controlling the assistance systems and the infotainment. Each individual semiconductor in turn consists of 500 million or more individual transistors. Berthold Hellenthal, semiconductor technology expert at Audi, knows what makes them so special: “A transistor is basically nothing more than a light switch. Power on, power off. There’s nothing more to it than that. But it has to be capable of performing that function up to a billion times a second.” That shows just how high-performance these components measuring a mere 100 nanometres actually are.

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Gauging the pulse of the times: with the Audi Progressive SemiConductor Program.

In addition to semiconductors’ capabilities, they also have to meet a whole array of requirements. Specifically criteria such as robustness, long-term quality and assured functioning across a very large temperature range and over very long periods are extremely important for Audi. For graphics chips in particular, such as those supplied by Nvidia, the bar is set very high because they are used in cars very soon after their market launch. To prepare effectively for the future and exploit maximum potential from the semiconductor industry’s short technology cycles, Audi launched the Audi Progressive SemiConductor Program in 2010.


The aim of the program is to transfer progress in the field of microelectronics more effectively to the car. An important part of it involves being in direct contact with the semiconductor manufacturers and building up expertise within Audi so that it is constantly able to gauge the pulse of the times. “We are working strategically with our suppliers on the joint development of new semiconductors. We discuss the functions being planned and share our findings,” explains Berthold Hellenthal, Head of the Audi Progressive SemiConductor Program. This is the only way to bring the cycles of the automotive industry ever more closely in line with those of consumer electronics. The significance of semiconductor technology is also reflected in the latest innovations such as the Audi virtual cockpit and laser headlights.


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