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SEMICON West 2018: Beyond Smart

Working for a global business isn’t very difficult these days. However working for a business that operates in key production markets puts me in an incredibly privileged position. I get to go and represent Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology at some of the best conferences and tradeshows in the world. Last week was a great example of this as I was lucky enough to spend a week amongst some of the most influential people of the semiconductor world at SEMICON West 2018.

And what a week it was! ‘Beyond Smart’ was the meeting tagline and the theme was how technology is driving connectivity, communication and AI to enable functionality that was never dreamt of years before. Smart factories, Smart automobiles and Smart Energy will have a huge impact on how we live and interact with people and the world.

What struck me most of all is how the technology will deliver so many unexpected benefits and it got me thinking about driverless cars. I believe driverless technology will happen, not IF but WHEN. Opponents may argue that there will be strong reluctance to hand over control to a machine but I think it is inevitable. The level of sensing and feedback within cars will grow massively in the coming years. Drivers will come to rely on this more and more until it becomes almost ridiculous not to use the AI. Add a few more incentives, insurers for example offering reduced premiums for AI cars or highways having fast track lanes. Finally, changes in legislation for example in the future a city like Tokyo may require driverless cars within its boundaries to ease traffic congestion. You then reach a tipping point where driverless tech just makes sense.

So that’s agreed driverless cars are happening, but how will they impact our lives? Imagine when your car doesn’t have to be geared around a driver, what would the interior look like? As long as it’s safe what can you do with the time you have available instead of driving? Tables, beds, in car entertainment all begin to look exciting. The commute is not a burden; it is an extension of your time spent in a living space which is tailored to your requirements. OK, take it a step further, I come home from work on Friday pick up the family and off we go to the coast for the weekend. Now the break starts when we step into our driverless car, we can sleep, eat or be entertained right there, right from the start. Then 2 hours later we arrive by the sea, not stressed not tired from the journey but relaxed and looking forward to a full weekend ahead. We can make the most of every hour as we don’t worry about the drive home, that’s taken care of. So driverless cars will reduce stress and widen horizons, a fantastic thought.

Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology is at the forefront of innovations to deliver driverless cars for example we have plasma process solutions specifically for VCSELs used in LiDAR sensing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on driverless cars and how other technology will enrich our lives in unexpected ways. Please get in touch at

I look forward to next year’s Semicon West to see how new technology is inspiring people to create new ways of living and how Oxford Instruments can help achieve those dreams.

Author: Dr Mark Dineen

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