The automotive booths are some of the most mind-blowing displays at CES. In my podcast, The Six Five, my co-host Daniel Newman of Futurum Research and I focused our coverage of CES 2023 almost exclusively on automotive tech, talking with Qualcomm, Luminar, Volvo, Mercedes, and Polestar.
At the event, Qualcomm showcased its Snapdragon Digital Chassis, allowing us to see the entire chassis come together in one of the best concepts at CES 2023. While Qualcomm also announced new Snapdragon Satellite technology at the event, here I want to cover Qualcomm's momentum with the Snapdragon Ride platform and especially its Snapdragon Ride Flex family of system-on-chips (SoC) devices.
I have written extensively on Qualcomm's Digital Chassis and how much of Qualcomm's automotive plays fit directly into its existing markets. Last autumn, I touched on this in my coverage of Qualcomm's first Automotive Investor Day in New York City, and then in another piece explained how Nakul Duggal, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Automotive, was that show's star. On top of the organic growth it has created, Qualcomm also has a long list of automotive partners, including Stellantis and GM—two huge wins in the automotive market.
At CES, Qualcomm highlighted how automotive companies are rapidly developing safe and updateable advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automated driving (AD) solutions on Qualcomm's Snapdragon Ride platform. Qualcomm highlighted three strengths of the platform that enable accelerated adoption and rapid development for Tier 1 suppliers.
First, Qualcomm talked about safety and how the company is working closely with automotive safety experts across the automotive ecosystem. The most compelling incentive behind ADAS and AD solutions comes from the safety outcomes of fully autonomous roads and highways. When the roads are filled with safe autonomous vehicles, there is less chance for human unpredictability, human carelessness and human-caused accidents. Qualcomm fully understands the need to work with safety experts across the automotive ecosystem, and I believe the close relations it has built with automotive partners allow Qualcomm to meet the highest safety standards.
Second, with the foundation of safety standards in place, Qualcomm is able to offer customizable and configurable designs for its partners. Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon Ride platform is engineered to allow for customization opportunities; it can adapt to evolving automotive architectures and be augmented by dedicated AI accelerators to support the ADAS/AD operational design domain (ODD). The automotive sector is a mature industry with many years of established IP. Qualcomm's offerings would be difficult to adopt if already-established solutions were not adaptable to future Snapdragon technologies—so the company has taken the steps needed to ensure that adaptability.
Third, Qualcomm's Snapdragon Ride Platform is scalable. Qualcomm has a one-technology roadmap that allows it to scale its computing, connectivity and other technologies into other markets. The same technology that is in its smartphone solutions is in its automotive solutions, and it is scaled to support Qualcomm's software-defined vehicle strategy.
Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC
At CES 2023, Qualcomm provided more information of a new family of SoCs, which it refers to as the “first scalable family of SoCs to support digital cockpit and advanced driver assistance systems.” The Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC is designed to offer an all-in-one package where both the ADAS compute platform and the digital cockpit compute platform are on the same hardware. As it scales from L1 to L5, brands and Tier 1s can leverage the investment made across their entire portfolio of investments.
I believe this integration of the ADAS/AD platform and the digital cockpit could benefit Qualcomm's automotive partners by simplifying hardware and software considerations onto a single SoC platform. The partners can then focus on a unified compute platform and software-defined vehicle architecture. It should allow automakers to leverage its compute investment across a portfolio of cars. This unified experience could offer better efficiency within the vehicle and allow automakers to offer better-defined multi-tier experiences through over-the-air (OTA) updates for potential upgrades.
I also believe the Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC could bring Qualcomm more partner wins with its all-in-one design. While this is not Qualcomm's first automotive SoC, it is the first fully aggregated SoC for vehicles. And it’s one that has high-performance for areas where it appeared NVIDIA was the only solution. OTAs can also be bundled for the digital cockpit and ADAS/AD platforms rather than separated, allowing for more intentional use of OTAs.
Qualcomm showcased one of the nicest concept cars I have ever seen in my twenty years of attending CES. What shocked me the most was that the car is actually drivable and street-ready. With an immersive digital cockpit experience, “suicide doors” and the complete Snapdragon Ride and Snapdragon Cockpit platforms, this car makes me excited to see future cars with these types of innovative technologies.
Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon Ride Flex family of SoCs also displayed an innovative Qualcomm first with its unified ADAS/AD solution and digital cockpit platform. It brings a range of benefits to its automotive partners, including simplifying the logistics of the hardware and software and enabling the car to interact more effectively with its different critical workloads. Qualcomm is continuing to consolidate and unify its automotive platforms, furthering its momentum into 2023.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.