Nissan vehicle entertainment systems to include Intel chips

Automotive News | April 7, 2012 - 8:24 am EST

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co.’s vehicles will use Intel Corp. microprocessors for in-car information and entertainment systems starting next year, helping the largest chipmaker lessen its reliance on sales to computer makers.

Nissan previewed an Infiniti LE concept car at the New York auto show this week that includes a dual-screen display powered by Intel’s Atom chip, the companies said in a statement.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini has identified the auto industry as an opportunity to diversify beyond the personal computer business, which now accounts for more than 90 percent of revenue. Intel, which also has deals with Daimler AG and BMW AG, is trying to persuade more carmakers that enhanced computing functions can woo consumers.

“It’s very clear that the industry is in the middle of this very significant transition to bring much richer connectivity into the vehicle,” said Ton Steenman, vice president of Intel’s intelligent systems group, in the statement. “We are beyond the pivot point of this becoming a significant business.”

Intel will help the speed the introduction of consumer electronics functions in vehicles, said Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president in charge of Infiniti, in the statement.

‘Faster cycle’

“We spend about four years developing a car and it lasts in the market about six years with a minor change in the middle,” Palmer said. “That has been OK for the last 80 years, but consumer electronics and smartphones are moving at a much faster cycle.”

Nissan is trying to separate electronics that control things such as the engine and brakes from the in-vehicle information systems. The rate of innovation in electronic systems facing the driver is increasingly going to be a “battlefield” in the competition for car buyers, Palmer said.

Cars need a better way to work with personal electronic devices, such as mobile phones, and connect with services provided by remote computers over the Internet, said Intel’s Steenman.

The two companies have been jointly testing systems with new features such as sensors and rear-view cameras to alert the owner when a car gets hit in a parking lot. Future systems may also use a chip or barcode on a mobile phone’s screen to replace keys, Intel said.

Sales growth

Nissan is targeting a 14 percent increase in U.S. sales of Nissan and Infiniti brand autos this year, and a 12 percent rise in its global sales to 5.4 million vehicles, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said in New York this week.

Ghosn has also committed Nissan to dominating an emerging global market for all-electric vehicles, led by its Leaf compact. That hatchback features a smartphone application to let drivers remotely check the level of battery charge, begin and end charging, see estimated driving range and turn on or off the car’s heating and cooling system.

Last year, the division that includes Intel’s car chip business increased sales 64 percent to $5 billion. The unit also includes the business that’s trying to get Intel processors in mobile phones and tablets. Intel had $54 billion in total sales last year.

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