Auto MEMS sensor shipments up 32% in 2010

El Segundo, Calif. — Shipments of automotive MEMS sensors will reach 662.3 million units in 2010, up 32.1 percent from 501.2 million units in 2009 thanks to a rapid recovery in automotive production and inventory rebuilding by sensor component suppliers, reported iSuppli, now part of IHS Inc.

iSuppli’s report, “Automotive MEMS Market Witnessing a Record 2010,” indicates that the projected year-end levels, including the replenishment of inventory that was depleted during the recession of 2009, will exceed even the pre-crisis high point in 2007 of 640 million sensors.

Source: iSuppli
Source: iSuppli

However, iSuppli noted that growth will slow in 2011, with shipments expected to climb just 7.3 percent as the market normalizes. The market research firm also forecasts production to pick up again in 2012, with growth rates of 13 percent and higher by 2014.

“One significant engine of automotive MEMS growth is the use of sensors in passenger cars supporting mandated safety technologies such as electronic stability control (ESC) and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS),” said Richard Dixon, senior analyst for MEMS and sensors at iSuppli,” in a statement. “The United States and Europe have led the adoption of legislation on such safety systems — and other countries like Australia and Canada have quickly followed suit. However, similar mandates are now being adopted in South Korea and are expected in Japan, accelerating overall adoption rates worldwide.”

Other application drivers include the use of gas sensors to control air quality in the cabin, infrared thermopiles to monitor temperature, microbolometers to aid night-vision systems, and MEMS oscillators to boost rear-view cameras, said iSuppli.

However, sensor fusion will be a contentious issue, said iSuppli. Sensor fusion uses existing sensor signals and adds application algorithms to augment existing systems such as ESC with features, as an example, hill-start-assist functionality. This doesn’t make sensor suppliers too happy. They rely on opportunities that involve standalone systems to provide additional sensors, said iSuppli.

On the other hand, inclination-based car alarms do not access accelerometers in ESC systems and require standalone accelerometers, according to iSuppli.

Other automotive applications that will drive sensor use include passenger protection systems that detect impacts by means of either accelerometers or pressure sensors located in the front bumper, and stop-start systems that need pressure and other non-MEMS based measurements to supply critical data when a vehicle’s engine is turned off at a junction, said iSuppli.

iSuppli also finds that some consumer-oriented MEMS sensor suppliers are making inroads into the automotive market. As an example, STMicroelectronics has targeted non-safety critical automotive applications such as car alarms and navigation. The chip maker recently introduced a high-g accelerometer for the airbag market.

See related article:
Electronica 2010: Component suppliers target automotive applications