Qualcomm develops one automotive chip to rule them all

And one Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC to bind them

CES Qualcomm is introducing a single chip platform that will handle the myriad digital workloads that are necessary in increasingly computerized automobiles.

At CES on Wednesday the biz introduced the Snapdragon Ride Flex system-on-a-chip (SoC) as a platform automakers will be able to use to power tasks across the digital cockpit, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and automated driving (AD) on the same hardware architecture.

Those tasks typically are run on separate chips. However, pulling them together into a single platform can mean lower costs and faster manufacturing times. That depends on getting the chips, something the automotive section has had problems with in the last few years.

"We are making it easier and more cost-effective for automakers and Tier-1s to embrace the transition to an integrated, open, and scalable architecture across all vehicle tiers with our pre-integrated suite of hardware, software, and ADAS/AD stack solutions," Nakul Duggal, senior vice president and general manager of automotive for Qualcomm, said in a statement.

The SoC, which is sampling now and is scheduled to start production in early 2024, was part of a larger rollout of automotive-related technology announcements the chip manufacturer made at the annual tech-fest in Las Vegas.

Qualcomm, which wants to expand its business beyond mobile devices, sees the automotive market as a key growth area for its power-efficient Arm-based processors, with a projected addressable market of $100 billion by 2030. Cars are becoming more digital, making them an increasingly rich market for chip makers from the pandemic-related chip shortages.

In its Fiscal Year 2022, Qualcomm saw revenue for the automotive business grow to $1.4 billion, making it the smallest of its revenue streams. Handsets generated $25 billion. However, it's among the fastest-growing, jumping 41 percent over the previous year's $975 million.

The company also says its order pipeline stands at about $30 billion, with companies like General Motors, Renault, Volkswagen, and BMW coming to the Snapdragon platform, with some moving away from Intel's Mobileye unit.

The Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC will be one more option in the Snapdragon Digital Chassis portfolio that such automakers will be able to choose. The digital cockpit features it will control include multiple displays, 3D navigation, and voice assistance, while ADAS involves adaptive cruise control, driver monitoring systems, lane monitoring, and assisted parking.

The platform also will include an integrated software platform that can support multiple operating systems at the same time and hypervisor enablement with isolated virtual machines. In addition, Qualcomm's Snapdragon Ride Vision Stack, which the company rolled out at CES in January 2022 as part of the company's Snapdragon Ride Platform portfolio.

The Ride Vision Stack is built on a 4-nanometer SoC with vision perception software from Arriver to support sensors around the automobile, including multiple cameras, radars, and lidars.

Qualcomm acquired a share of Arriver when it bought Swedish automotive technology company Veoneer last year for $4.5 billion.

The Flex SoC will be designed in multiple tiers, from entry-level offerings to high-end central-compute systems to give automakers flexibility in what they can offer.

During CES, Qualcomm also showed off a concept car outfitted with its Snapdragon Digital Chassis solution, a collection of cloud-connected platforms that touch on telematics, connectivity, the digital cockpit, and driver assistance. ®

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