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Automotive safety systems drive MEMS growth

London, UK — More than 300 million microelectromechanical (MEMS) chips were shipped in nearly 100 million airbag, tire pressure monitoring, and electronic stability (ESP) safety systems in 2010, according to a new report from ABI Research. The market research firm forecasts that the number of MEMS will soar to more than 830 million units in about 150 million automotive systems in 2016.

“Safety systems are becoming more advanced and more complex, and each new system tends to contain more sensors than previous generations,” said Peter Cooney, ABI Research’s practice director, in a statement.

Cooney noted that the single largest driver of the automotive MEMS and safety systems market is government mandates. “When governments make safety systems mandatory (as the USA did with TPMS) MEMS suppliers see a big benefit.”

Source: Peter Cooney, Semiconductors Practice Director, ABI Research
Source: Peter Cooney, Semiconductors Practice Director, ABI Research

However, the trend toward integration, where several sensors or types of sensor are incorporated on a single chip, could have a negative impact on growth in the MEMS market, according to Cooney. A related trend is making a single MEMS do double or triple duty in several safety systems, he added.

MEMS devices used in these automotive applications are accelerometers, pressure sensors and gyroscopes. ABI Research indicated that there are only a few MEMS suppliers to the automotive market, noting that “it’s difficult to get into, and deep pockets are required. But profits can be significant for those that succeed.”