Qualcomm Unveils Platform for Connected Cars

The chip maker creates a reference architecture to bring together the various connectivity technologies that are coming to connected vehicles.

Qualcomm cars

Qualcomm officials over the past year have been making an aggressive push into the emerging connected car space, and they are taking their next step with a reference platform based on a broad array of the company's technologies.

The chip maker on June 8 introduced the Qualcomm Connected Car Reference Platform, which officials said will give car makers the tools and technologies they need as they design and build their vehicles as well as address the growing range of use cases brought on by the rapid advances in wireless connectivity, such as 4G LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The platform is designed to bring together the growing number of wireless connectivity technologies that are finding their way into modern cars into a modular, centralized architecture that can be easily upgraded on the hardware and software sides, they said.

"As the technological experience continues to evolve to include ADAS [advanced driver assistance system], V2X [vehicle-to-everything] communications, 5G, and other immersive experiences, auto tech must evolve with it," Qualcomm officials wrote in a post on the company blog. "And in the context of those technologies, auto tech systems will need to handle multiple connections to and from different data-collecting objects seamlessly, recording everything from on-the-road telemetry to potential preferences for untried pizzerias. It's a huge opportunity for OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers—provided they can successfully craft the computer architecture capable of handling the next wave of tech demands."

Like many other chip makers, Qualcomm is looking to emerging markets like the Internet of things (IoT), wearable devices and connected as new areas for their processors. Most recently, NXP Semiconductors, leveraging the technologies it inherited through its $12 billion acquisition of Freescale Semiconductor, in May introduced a platform for self-driving cars that includes everything from the sensors that collect massive amounts of data to the compute engine—which the company calls the BlueBox—capable of fusing all that data and ensuring that the right decisions are made.

For its part, Qualcomm at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year unveiled the Snapdragon 820 Automotive (820A) family of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs).

Qualcomm officials said the company has been working with the automotive industry for years, having shipped more than 340 million chips for products used by more than 20 automakers. With the new reference platform, the company is bringing together many parts of its portfolio, including its Snapdragon X12 and X5 LTE modems, quad-constellation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and 2D/3D Dead Reckoning (DR) location solutions.

Other technologies include its VIVE WiFi technology, dedicated short range communications (DSRC) for V2X, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy, and and broadcast capabilities such as analog and digital tuner support through Qualcomm's tuneX chips. The platform also features in-vehicle networking technologies such as Gigabit Ethernet with Automotive Audio Bus (A2B) and controller area network (CAN) interfaces.

The reference architecture brings scalability, future-proofing—by enabling the connectivity hardware and software to be upgraded—support for OEM and third-party applications. In addition, it makes it easier for car makers to enable the various wireless connectivity technologies more easily coexist.

"The platform is ideally suited to facilitate V2X connectivity: the ability for vehicles to interact with their environments—other cars, infrastructure, pedestrians and the cloud—through wireless connectivity," officials wrote in the blog.

It will be available later in the year, though Qualcomm will be demonstrating the reference architecture this week at the TU-Automotive Detroit conference.