Qualcomm announces chips for self-driving cars that could be in cars by 2023


Steve Mollenkopf, chief executive officer of Qualcomm Inc., holds the new Snapdragon 835 chip during a keynote at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Qualcomm silicon is the processor at the heart of millions of smartphones, but soon, you might buy a car with a Qualcomm system-on-chip inside, too.

Qualcomm announced on Monday a new series of chips and technologies for car manufacturers called Snapdragon Ride that can integrate a large amount of data from a car’s sensors and is compliant with current regulations for safety and driver assistance.

Qualcomm also revealed a system that can connect cars to high-speed cellular networks under the “C-V2X,” or “cellular vehicle to everything” technology.

Both announcements show Qualcomm is aggressively competing in self-driving chips against Intel’s Mobileye and Nvidia and that it’s still pursuing the market after its bid to buy NXP Semiconductors, a leading car chip maker, fell through in 2018 because of regulatory difficulties.

Snapdragon Ride includes several system-on-chip options, called Snapdragon Ride Safety, as well as a machine learning accelerator and self-driving software “stack.” It will be able to support advanced driver assistance systems, or “ADAS” functions, such as lane-keeping, traffic sign recognition, and automated highway driving — technology usually referred to as “Level 1” or “Level 2” autonomy.

The chips also will be available to car makers and parts suppliers which need silicon to develop “Level 5” self-driving applications, like robo-taxis. Qualcomm will ship the chips and system to its customers later this year, and hopes cars equipped with its technology will start production in 2023.

Qualcomm previously revealed its autonomous car ambitions in 2017, when it received a permit to test self-driving cars in California. Last fall, Qualcomm rented out a stretch of highway near its San Diego headquarters to test its self-driving cars.

Qualcomm said on Monday it had more than $6.5 billion of orders in the “pipeline” for automotive technology. Qualcomm reported $24.2 billion in revenue in its fiscal 2019, mostly from smartphone chips and technology licensing.

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