Qualcomm Launches One Automotive Chip to Rule Them All

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
qualcomm launches one automotive chip to rule them all

Qualcomm has released a new automotive processor chip designed to help contend with supply chain issues by handling both driver assistance features and the more standard functions tied to the infotainment system. 

Typically those systems are handled by separate semiconductors. But Qualcomm believes that the Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC will be able to handle basic functions and multimedia while also serving as the core processor for any driving aids tied to vehicle sensors. In theory, automakers would only have to purchase a single chip – with Qualcomm receiving their business by offering a relatively simple way for them to cut costs and reduce manufacturing complexity. 

Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm’s head of automotive, explained the premise to Reuters – noting that the chip was already being tested out by clients and would become commercially available in 2024. 

“Obviously you are reducing the number of physical boxes. So, it goes down to a single box. You reduce the amount of memory that you need. The extra external components that you need, those go down,” Duggal said. 

Qualcomm previewed the chip at this year’s CES (though it had technically been announced before), stating that it builds on the technology of the older Snapdragon Ride platform that’s currently embedded into Cadillac’s Lyriq EV. While that unit is focused on advanced driving aids, the company likewise offers Snapdragon Cockpit chips that handle infotainment systems and connectivity. The Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC is supposed to offer the best of both worlds by handling all of the above independently. 

This has the potential to link all vehicle controls through a single centralized computer, rather than having a series of dedicated systems tied to ECUs. That likewise means automakers can get away with less wiring, saving on their copper bills. Moving functionality into a centralized platform is also supposed to make it much easier to do over-the-air software updates and provide automakers with more comprehensive data about the vehicle. 

Though not all of the above will appeal to you if you happen to be someone who doesn’t want their vehicle permanently connected to the internet. Do-it-yourself types will also probably not appreciate having everything integrated into one system that’s effectively controlled by the manufacturer. 

Considering this was the direction much of the industry was heading anyway, with companies like Nvidia working on similar chips, Qualcomm seems to be positioning itself wisely and said its latest unit would be scalable to handle bigger computing jobs. Though this could require upgraded or additional chips, depending on the automaker’s needs. Assuming the industry likes what it sees, expect to see the first batch showing up in electric vehicles produced by BMW or Volkswagen after 2024.

[Image: Remus Rigo/Shutterstock]

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4 of 12 comments
  • Too bad the ARM v QUALCOMM lawsuit might trash the entire lineup.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 04, 2023

    The trend is to combine more functions with 1 chip and I don't believe the auto makers have any choice because the older chips are being phased out. Auto companies will pay more for the chips but use less of them making the chips more profitable for the chip makers. The only alternative would be if the auto makers made their own chips in order to have an adequate supply of the older generation chips but the trend for a number of years is that the auto companies have been outsourcing more of their parts. This might be the only way auto companies can get an adequate supply of chips to make enough vehicles without cutting output of vehicles. The auto companies probably have no other options. As has been stated in the past the dealers are the manufacturers customers not the consumer and the dealers need more vehicles to sell.

    • See 1 previous
    • Matt Posky Matt Posky on Jan 05, 2023

      You've both have hit the nail on the head here. I've yet to speak to someone from the chip or automotive sector giving me a different story. The old chips are around and factories remains desperate for them while chip makers want to do away with them to focus on the new hotness.

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