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Nvidia's automotive Tegra chips use a special TSMC flow

Says it has exclusive intellectual property
Fri Mar 22 2013, 09:33
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SAN JOSE: CHIP DESIGNER Nvidia said at its GPU Technology Conference (GTC) that it has exclusive intellectual property (IP) with TSMC in the fabrication of its Tegra automotive chips.

Nvidia has shipped around 2.5 million Tegra chips into the automotive industry, with firms such as Audi, BMW, Lamborghini and Tesla using a mixture of Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 chips. Philip Hughes, director of Automotive sales and business development at Nvidia told The INQUIRER that the Tegra chips that end up in cars are fabbed using a specific "automotive flow' at TSMC.

Hughes said that while the Tegra 3 chip in the Tesla has the same architecture as the chip that powers Google's Nexus 7 tablet, it is fabbed using a different process flow that is specific to chips intended for the automotive industry. By different flow, Hughes was referring to additional steps to ensure validation and reliability rather than a different chip geometry.

Hughes added that Nvidia worked with TSMC to develop the automative flow, adding that there is Nvidia specific IP in that flow. So while TSMC has other customers that use it for producing chips for the automotive industry, it cannot take advantage of Nvidia's proprietary process features.

Nvidia has enjoyed considerable success in the automotive industry given its relativley recent entrance into what is a very conservative market. Hughes said that the firm already has orders for a further 20 million Tegra chips from car makers, which is impressive given that its chips have typically ended up in high-end motorcars.

Given that Nvidia has gone to the effort of working with TSMC to customise its process flow, it is safe to say the company is very serious about breaking into the automotive industry, an industry that many semiconductor vendors increasingly see as an industry that will drive revenue as PC sales decrease. µ


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