Qualcomm Moving To Snap Up Automotive Compute Market Share

Qualcomm QCOM is not a brand new player in the auto semiconductor industry. The majority of new cars come with cellular data connectivity and, in the majority of cases, it’s powered through Qualcomm modems. In recent years, Qualcomm has been trying to gain market share for processors that control the car’s primary functions. The first step was chips used in infotainment systems and is expanding to driver assist and automation capabilities in conjunction with GM and other automobile makers starting in 2022.

It’s Snapdragon 820A system-on-a-chip (SoC) is an optimized version for automotive use of the chip that was featured in a variety of top-of-the-line Android phones just a couple of years ago. Companies like Jaguar Land Rover now use it to drive information systems. In 2020 CES, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon Ride platform, built on a more advanced SoC and the AI acceleration chip.

The Ride SoC is used on its own or along with the AI processor. The processor and the chips can be connected to offer whatever level of performance is needed to meet the essentials of a particular application. The boards that include more than one SoC or AI processor can reach 700 trillion operations every second (TOPS) and even more. Qualcomm claims a mixture of 2 SoCs and an AI accelerator that can reach 400 TOPS at 65 to 70W of power usage.

One of the first known Snapdragon Ride applications is scheduled to launch in spring 2022 with the Cadillac Lyriq, the brand’s first electric vehicle. The Lyriq will be equipped with the most recent version of its free-hands-free Super Cruise driver-assist system currently running with Qualcomm’s Qualcomm chipset. This comes just one year after GM released Super Cruise’s second version of Super Cruise on the Cadillac Escalade, CT4, and CT5. The 2022 Hummer EV GMC will be available for purchase this month and include a regular Super Cruise. A GM spokesperson refused to discuss whether this new compute platform is unique to the Lyriq or whether any of the current 2021 models also use this Qualcomm platform. In 2021, the second generation Super Cruise moved to a brand new computing platform, the same as the one that debuted in 2017 with the Cadillac CT6. It is unusual to make a significant platform upgrade after only one year, but due to the issues the auto industry faced with sourcing chips in 2021, it might have been a factor in the change. GM will also be using Snapdragon Ride to drive the next generation of its Ultra Cruise system, debuting in 2023.

In the past, automakers typically have avoided modern, state-of-the-art chips, opting instead for older models that have been tested and can withstand electromagnetic interference. This has resulted in several chip shortages, with these semiconductors being manufactured using more senior, more robust process nodes that range from 28 to 90 millimeters. Snapdragon Ride chips Snapdragon Ride chip is manufactured using the latest advanced 5nm process technology.

In a clip featuring Cadillac Chief Marketing Officer Melissa Grady that ran during the keynote on day two of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit, Grady also talked extensively about the brand new Android Automotive connected infotainment system that is in the Lyriq. The Snapdragon Cockpit Platform operates a 33-inch display that extends across two-thirds of the dashboard.

In Qualcomm’s most recent investor day event, The chipmaker revealed that BMW had chosen Qualcomm and the Arriver software stack, which Qualcomm is acquiring from Veoneer to develop future models. It’s becoming increasingly clear that it is a three-way race shortly, with Qualcomm along with Nvidia the NVDA beginning to capture substantial parts of market share driver-assist computing platforms from Mobileye, the leading competitor in the market.

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Adam Collins
Adam writes about technology, business and economics. With master's degree in Economics, he's presented six papers in international conferences. As a solivagant in the constant state of fernweh, curiosity is the main weapon in his arsenal.

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