Qualcomm devises cost-effective ADAS chip for India

The American technology giant is enabling connectivity in modern cars and aims to tap into the price-conscious Indian market with its latest innovation that enables ADAS functionalities.

By Shahkar Abidi and Ketan Thakkar calendar 21 Apr 2024 Views icon5174 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Qualcomm devises cost-effective ADAS chip for India

American semiconductor giant Qualcomm Technologies has been at the forefront of innovation in the automotive sector, leveraging its expertise in semiconductor technology and wireless communication, to drive advancements in vehicle connectivity, infotainment, and safety systems.

One of Qualcomm's key contributions to the automotive industry is its development of advanced telematics solutions, which help provide vehicle tracking, diagnostics, and communication services. Qualcomm's telematics platforms enable real-time data collection and analysis, empowering fleet managers and vehicle owners with valuable insights into vehicle performance, maintenance needs, as well as driver behaviour.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon Automotive Platforms built on its popular Snapdragon system-on-chip (SoC) technology from the smartphone domain, are powering the next generation of connected vehicles too. These platforms offer robust computing capabilities, support for multiple displays, and seamless integration with wireless networks, enabling features like navigation, multimedia streaming, and voice recognition.

With its latest innovation, the Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC, Qualcomm aims to tap into the cost-conscious Indian auto sector. Unveiled recently, the Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC is a versatile technology designed to handle a diverse array of tasks, from powering digital dashboards to supporting advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and automated driving capabilities. This integrated system offers automakers unified, software-defined vehicle (SDV) architecture, besides providing scalability in performance.

"India is a price-sensitive market and packaging the right technology at the right price point is crucial," acknowledges Uday Dodla, Qualcomm India's senior director for automotive business development.With the Flex SoC slated for production starting in CY24, Dodla anticipates widespread adoption by automakers around CY26-27, signalling a significant shift in the automotive landscape.

The Flex SoC boasts a dedicated ‘safety island,’ a hardware fortress ensuring seamless performance for critical ADAS features. On the software front, it claims to excel in running multiple operating systems simultaneously, accommodating real-time systems for essential safety functions alongside isolated virtual machines for other tasks.

This integration enables vehicle makers to consolidate various features—driver assistance, digital displays, infotainment, driver monitoring, and park-assist systems — onto a single chip, akin to the integration seen in smartphones.

Dodla says Qualcomm's vision-based system is capable of navigating the complex and unpredictable traffic scenarios prevalent in India. Unlike the structured roads of mature economies, India's traffic presents diverse challenges, making it an ideal testing ground for adaptive AI models. Dodla envisions this environment will accelerate the development of robust and adaptable self-driving systems.

Telematics enabling connectivity

As Qualcomm expands its footprint in the automotive sector, the technology giant is not only focusing on end-to-end solutions but also exploring new opportunities in adjacent areas. One of Qualcomm's key contributions to the automotive industry is its development of advanced telematics solutions.

Telematics, which refers to the integration of telecommunications and informatics to provide vehicle tracking, diagnostics, and communication services, under the Qualcomm suite, is enabling real-time data collection and analysis, empowering fleet managers and vehicle owners with valuable insights into vehicle performance, maintenance needs, and driver behaviour.

Robust computing power

Qualcomm's Snapdragon Automotive Platforms claim to offer robust computing capabilities, support for multiple displays, and seamless integration with wireless networks, enabling features like navigation, multimedia streaming, and voice recognition.

In India, the company has a significant presence in telematics, powering connectivity features for many OEMs in the country such as Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) and Tata Motors. While it is also providing fleet management and remote diagnostics services to large fleet operators in India’s commercial vehicle space, according to Dodla, Qualcomm is also exploring potential in predictive analytics and personalised connected services based on driver data.

The collaboration between Qualcomm and homegrown automakers such as M&M and Tata Motors underscores the company's commitment to the Indian market. In September 2023, homegrown automaker M&M entered a collaboration with Qualcomm to use data insights with edge diagnostics from its Snapdragon Digital Chassis’ cloud-connected services platform to fine-tune vehicles during pre-production testing.

 The announcement marked an extended relationship between M&M and Qualcomm, following their collaboration for the former’s blockbuster SUV products, including the Scorpio-N and XUV700, equipped with the Snapdragon Cockpit platforms.

In the past, the technology major has also collaborated with Tata Motors for its Nexon EV, Harrier, and Safari SUV models. In the fast-transitioning two-wheeler segment towards electrification, Qualcomm supplies its power cluster to the likes of prominent startups – Ola Electric and Ather Energy for some of their models. Qualcomm, through its investment arm, has also made investments in Indian EV startup– Ultraviolette – which is backed by TVS Motor Company and is engaged in the development of high-performance electric motorcycles.

Bullish on India

Furthermore, Qualcomm's investment in India, including the establishment of a new design centre in Chennai, reflects the country's growing significance for the technology major.

The company currently has three R&D centres in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Noida. The collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to support India's navigation satellite system, NavIC, further cements Qualcomm's commitment to driving innovation in the Indian automotive sector.

Qualcomm recently announced an investment of up to Rs 177 crore in India in its new design centre in Chennai, wherein it will undertake development of its WiFi and 5G cellular technologies. With a workforce of over 17,000 people in the country, India is the second-largest base outside of its R&D headquarters in San Diego, in the US, where it is undertaking global R&D projects.

As Qualcomm continues to push the boundaries of automotive technology, its collaborations, investments, and innovations are poised to shape the future of mobility in India, driving towards a more connected, efficient, and sustainable transportation ecosystem.

Making strides in tech globally

The company is making rapid progress in technology development, and at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas earlier this year, Qualcomm announced its collaboration with German Tier-1 major Bosch, for the latter to adopt Qualcomm’s Flex Soc as its new central vehicle computer. Qualcomm also demonstrated digital cockpits, connected services, and advanced driver assistance enabled by Generative AI models running locally on its Snapdragon platform.

Interestingly, over 75 new vehicle models were globally introduced in CY2023, with the company's technologies, highlighting its advances for the automotive sector. While the company reported a record USD 598 million in automotive business during Q1 FY24, it did not reveal its India revenues. The Q1 FY24 revenues follow its USD 456 million clocked in Q1 FY23, translating into a year-on-year jump of 31%.

Moreover, Qualcomm's automotive solutions extend beyond connectivity to also include ADAS and autonomous driving technologies. The company's Snapdragon Ride Platform provides the computational horsepower required for processing sensor data, running perception algorithms, and making real-time decisions to enhance vehicle safety and autonomy.

In addition to hardware innovations, Qualcomm is also driving software development in the automotive sector. The company's Snapdragon Automotive Development Platform provides a comprehensive software stack for building and testing automotive applications, including operating systems, middleware, and development tools. This platform accelerates the development of automotive software, enabling automakers and suppliers to bring new features and services to market more quickly and efficiently.

Overall, Qualcomm's advances in the automotive sector are shaping the future of mobility, enabling safer, more connected, and more intelligent vehicles. With its innovative technologies and strategic partnerships, Qualcomm is playing a pivotal role in accelerating the adoption of digital transformation in the automotive industry, paving the way for a smarter and more sustainable transportation ecosystem.

This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's April 15, 2024 issue.

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