The Six Five Connected with Diana Blass at IAA Mobility: Why is There So Much Tech at a Car Show?

By Patrick Moorhead - September 27, 2023

In this episode of The Six Five Connected with Diana Blass, our host covers how IAA Mobility put a spotlight on the unique driving experience that’s unfolding with the arrival of electric vehicles (EVs), an experience underpinned by technology that not only supports a car’s charging and its operations but continuously customizes the car to a driver’s needs and its environments. The result? A software-defined vehicle. Check out the episode below to learn more.

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Diana Blass: From the outside, it looks like an average car. On the inside…

Cristiano Amon: It’s becoming a connected computer on wheels.

Diana Blass: Enabling you to do just about anything from the driver’s seat.

Christian, an Employee of Qualcomm: Hey Snapdragon, create a birthday card for my brother with waterfalls in the background.

Diana Blass: It’s the type of innovation on display at the German auto show formerly called IAA Mobility, an event that takes place every two years that sees hundreds of thousands of car fans head to Munich, Germany. This time in early September and I was one of those fans, interested to learn why you see so much tech at a car show.

Don McGuire: Software is really going to define future experiences, how the car operates, from electrification all the way through to charging.

Diana Blass: You’d be hard-pressed to find a non-electric car at IAA Mobility, despite what you may see on the roads today. Cities and countries all over the world are racing towards an electric future as they set deadlines to ban the sale of gas powered cars. In the EU, that ban takes effect in 2035, which is why the conversation here is far from a debate between EVs and their gas guzzling counterparts. It’s clear EVs are the future.

Instead, this conference put a spotlight on the unique driving experience unfolding with the EVs arrival. An experience underpinned by technology that not only supports a car’s charging its operations, but continuously customizes a car to a driver’s needs and its environment. It probably doesn’t surprise you that all this has gotten a boost from AI.

Here’s Qualcomm’s senior vice president and general manager of automotive and cloud computing, Nakul Duggal.

Nakul Duggal: To me, the part about AI in the car that is really fascinating and that’s really different is there is so much more context. Who you are, what your relationship is with the vehicle. That brings so much more context into being able to predict and being able to provide as feedback or as an experience to the customer what it is that they would like to go do.

Diana Blass: Qualcomm, the company best known for the tech inside our smartphones, has become a key player in the AI automotive space. In recent years as technology has supported ADAS applications, which stands for Advanced Driver Assisted Systems. This includes automated braking, parking assist and things like that.

Nakul Duggal: For ADAS in the car, you need high performance AI, you need low latency, you need the cameras, you need the sensors, you need the AI blocks. That was a big advantage because as generative AI came along, we already had the hardware in place. All of our silicon actually has a tremendous amount of AI hardware built in. It just now has to be applied for a different use case.

Diana Blass: Use cases like this.

Christian, an Employee of Qualcomm: This is our Snapdragon digital chassis concept vehicle. It’s really showcasing all the automotive technologies that Qualcomm has. All right, so as I get in, I’m going to use my push-to-start button and power on the car.

Snapdragon: Welcome Christian.

Christian, an Employee of Qualcomm: Hey Snapdragon, stop the music. You just heard me talking to our voice assistant. We call him Snapdragon.

Diana Blass: The Snapdragon digital chassis is a portfolio of solutions enabling these capabilities. OEMs can leverage those solutions to deploy in-car connectivity, ADAS applications, and power a digital cockpit. Soon, the platform will include generative AI capabilities like this.

Christian, an Employee of Qualcomm: Find me some restaurants nearby.

Snapdragon: Here are several restaurants.

Christian, an Employee of Qualcomm: Make a reservation for four people at the second one. That was really showcasing our generative AI and how you’re able to search for POIs and also narrow down your search while maintaining the context of what you’re doing. I mean, as I say, make a reservation for the second one. It knows what I’m talking about, even though that wasn’t the current command.

Diana Blass: Automotive software platforms like the Snapdragon digital chassis are the foundation to a car’s digital transformation. These platforms collect and analyze data on the driver and the surroundings. They also enable over the year updates and connect the car to the cloud where drivers can access a marketplace of applications. It’s why Qualcomm announced a partnership with AWS at IAA Mobility. The Six Five host and CEO of The Futurum Group, Daniel Newman, discussed the news fittingly inside the concept car, with Qualcomm CMO, Don McGuire.

Daniel Newman: I don’t think a lot of people really think about one, a company like AWS being involved in vehicles. Or two, with Qualcomm being focused historically more on device and edge. People always think of AWS as cloud. What brings partnerships in companies like Qualcomm and AWS here at an automotive show?

Don McGuire: Well, if you look at the components that make up the digital chassis, we have our cockpit platforms, we have our connectivity platforms, and one of the platforms we have is our car-to-cloud services platform. That’s where partnerships with the likes of AWS and Salesforce and others come into play because we need to drive and build for our OEM customers, our car manufacturer customers, the ability to provide upgradability, new services to their drivers, to their customers. That all is something that emanates from the car to the cloud and back, and the only way we’re going to deliver on this new idea of upgradability and longevity is by connecting these cars to the cloud.

Diana Blass: The partnership is significant because it opens up endless capabilities from a developer perspective. In turn, speeding up innovation.

Daniel Newman: Qualcomm, Nvidia, Intel, Mobileye have all been very focused on building technology that’s compatible with the OEMs so that these OEMs can move faster.

Diana Blass: Speed is definitely the name of the game here.

Nakul Duggal: The traditional automakers are obviously seeing a lot of competition, not just from the likes of Tesla but also the Chinese.

Diana Blass: China had a large presence at the show where about 50 companies showed off their goods. That’s said to be about twice as many since the last event, just two years earlier. The majority of these companies are targeting the European car market in light of the fast-approaching ban of gas powered cars. As a result, the rest of the auto market, particularly those in Europe, are picking up the pace of innovation. Here’s one example, the Scenic eTech by the French automaker Renault. It features Qualcomm technology.

Maximilian Hepp: We are seeing the OpenR screen with Google Maps navigation and it’s showing our position in unit.

Diana Blass: BMW and Mercedes also debuted car models with Qualcomm tech, evident that this isn’t just a race for EV dominance, but a push to create an entirely new experience, an experience described as a new living space. That’s right, cars aren’t just for driving. Check this out.

Christian, an Employee of Qualcomm: I’m going to park our car now that we’ve gone on a tour of the city and I’m going to open up my video game.

Diana Blass: Many of the models we saw at the show will begin to roll out in 2024, so I guess it’s time to buckle up. It’ll be an interesting ride, right?

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.