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Teardown Reveals The Tesla S Resembles A Smartphone

Teardown Reveals The Tesla S Resembles A Smartphone

From sensors that monitor vehicle drivetrain components to advanced infotainment systems, today’s automobiles are showcases for the latest advances in electronic components and subsystems. No vehicle has exemplified this trend more than the revolutionary Tesla Model S electric vehicle, according to a recent teardown by IHS Technology's Teardown Analysis Service. 

There’s no question that electronics has infiltrated today’s vehicles in a big way. From sensors that monitor vehicle drivetrain components to advanced infotainment systems, today’s automobiles are showcases for the latest advances in electronic components and subsystems.

No vehicle has exemplified this trend more than the revolutionary Tesla Model S electric vehicle, according to a recent teardown by IHS Technology's Teardown Analysis ServiceA physical dissection of the Model S revealed that the company’s approach to automaking runs far deeper than the Model S’s electric drivetrain, battery packs and futuristic body, extending all the way down to the car’s infotainment and instrumentation systems. The teardown reveals that in terms of design, components and manufacturing, these user-oriented subsystems have more in common with a tablet or smartphone than they do with a conventional automobile.

“The cost structure of the electronics, the use of large displays in the cabin, the touch-screen-based controls, the mobile microchips—everything in this design makes the Tesla experience more like a media tablet or high-end smartphone than a traditional automobile,” said Andrew Rassweiler, senior director for materials and cost benchmarking at IHS, in a statement. “It’s like looking at the components from the latest mobile device from an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy product. When it comes to the user-facing segment of the Model S’s electronics, the company has radically departed from business-as-usual in the automotive market.”

IHS’s initial analysis focuses on the car’s two most electronics-intensive segments: the virtual instrument cluster and the premium media control unit—aka the head unit—which is the main center stack and touch-screen panel.

The analysis has generated a list of features and attributes, including:

•   A huge 17-inch display and touch screen, which is much larger than the average automotive infotainment interface.

•   The use of an NVIDIA Corp. Tegra 3, 1.4-gigahertz quad-core processor, providing computing power in the same league with recent smartphone and tablet designs.

•   The most complex automotive head unit design ever seen by the IHS Teardown Analysis Service, with more than 5,000 discrete components—1,000 more than the highest-end infotainment unit previously analyzed.

•   A bill of materials (BOM) for the virtual instrument cluster and the premium media control unit that is roughly twice the cost of the highest-end infotainment unit examined by IHS.

The table lists the major electronic component suppliers for the Tesla S.

Table: Tesla S - Top / Major Electronic Component Suppliers

Includes interior electronic modules: Media Control, Instrument cluster, and multiple body control modules

DOES NOT INCLUDE MOST POWERTRAIN ELECTRONICS (Battery Charger, Battery Packs, Inverter, Etc.,)

 

 

INNOLUX CORP (Chi Mei)

Display - Premium Media Control

NVIDIA CORPORATION

Visual Computing Modules - Media Control and Instrument Cluster

JAPAN DISPLAY INC

Display - Instrument Cluster

TPK Holdings

Touchscreen - Premium Media Control

S1NN GMBH

Audio Amplifier PCBA and separate amp module for sound system

FREESCALE SEMICONDUCTOR INC

MCUs - In Assorted modules

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC

Assorted Analog, Logic, and Specialized IC Content in multiple modules

SIERRA WIRELESS / QUALCOMM

Wireless module / chipset

ST MICROELECTRONICS

Audio Amplifiers and assorted integrated circuits in multiple modules

ALTERA CORP

FPGA - in Premium Media Control Unit

PARROT

Combo Module (BT and WLAN)

SK HYNIX INC

DRAM and NAND Flash in NVidia Visual Computing Modules

LINEAR TECHNOLOGY CORP

Power management Ices in multiple modules

CYPRESS SEMICONDUCTOR CORP

Touch Controller ICs for large format capacitive touchscreen

INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES AG

Assorted IC Content

ANALOG DEVICES INC

Assorted IC Content

MICROCHIP TECHNOLOGY INC

Assorted IC Content

Source: IHS Technology, October 2014

The cost structure of the Model S’s premium media control unit closely resembles that of a smartphone or tablet because the display and touch screen are the two most expensive subsystems, the same as for an iPhone or iPad. The high cost is due to the sheer scale and size of the display and touchscreen.

“The mobile device-like approach to the Model S’s user interface represents a very deliberate choice by Tesla,” Rassweiler said. “The company really wanted to do things differently and employed virtual controls—rather than physical knobs and buttons—to take over the user experience. This approach required a major investment in big displays and touch panels, similar to the approach Apple took when designing the iPhone and iPad.”

The Model S display is some 10 inches larger than the typical screen sizes seen in many automotive head units. The resolution of the display is 1,920 x 1,200, again exceeding the norm for cars.

TAGS: Automotive
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