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Under the Hood: What Audi A8 Has Taught Us


An article written by Junko Yoshida and Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, for EETIMES, in collaboration with Romain Fraux, CEO at System Plus Consulting.


A recent teardown of the Audi A8 reveals exactly why, from both a technological and economic standpoint, achieving higher levels of autonomy for vehicles has been harder than anyone originally expected. Audi’s experience with the A8 consequently remains relevant today.

When Audi launched its redesigned A8 sedan at the end of 2017, the company touted it as the auto industry’s first Level 3 car. The entire automotive industry is still contending with technological issues and unfamiliar cost structures that confronted Audi back then. The teardown conducted by System Plus provides valuable insights into a few questions:

• What does it take to pull off a Level 3 car?
• What’s included in the A8 sensor suite?
• How much processing power does a Level 3 car require?
• Is it GPU, SoC, CPU or FPGA driving Audi’s central driver assistance controller called zFAS?
• How much does zFAS cost?

It can be instructive how Audi achieved Level 3 functionality using chips that had been on the market, and were already tried and tested in other applications, especially in comparison with Tesla, which two years later (2019) launched its “Full Self Driving Computer” board which relies heavily on two home-grown self-driving chips.

System Plus teardowns include analyses that go beyond simply reverse engineering and identifying hardware elements. The firm also performs “reverse costing” — estimating how much it must have cost a company to source specific components and build its products. System Plus’ reverse costing of the A8 shows that 60% of the cost of zFAS — estimated to be $290 — is driven by the cost of semiconductors. This is hardly startling, since 80 to 85 percent of the content in modern cars is electronics. That wasn’t the startling thing about the costs, however.


The real shocker to car OEM, said Romain Fraux, CEO at System Plus Consulting, is that no automotive companies were mentally prepared to pay a 50 percent margin per component — as charged by Nvidia, Intel and others for their flagship chip solutions. This opened the door to a whole new world for automotive OEMs, prompting them to rethink the calculus of highly automated vehicles… Full story

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