LAS VEGAS—Chip giant Qualcomm announced a new family of automotive processors and a design win at International CES (Jan. 5). The company aims to shift the pace of development in the smartphone market to the automotive arena with modular designs.
Design cycles for the Internet of Things are speeding up and OEMs are using modules to enable more innovation, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said during CES press day. To bring advanced connectivity to the auto sector, Qualcomm announced a modular SoC based on its Snapdragon 820 processor—the 820A and 820Am.
“820A use the same blend of technologies as the Snapdragon 820, but is optimized for the form factor and unique requirements of the automobile application,” the CEO continued. “[802A] has a suite of technologies that allow car manufacturers to take advantage of all proximity, connectivity, sensor data, and blends that into unique capabilities.”
Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf.
The 14nm FinFET Snapdragon 820A SoC node runs a 64-bit Qualcomm Kryo CPU, an Adreno 530 GPU, and Hexagon 680 DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtension. The Snapdragon 820Am SoC adds an integrated 4G LTE modem capable of 600 Mbits/second downlink and 150 Mbits/s uplink for HD video streaming, or for use as a 802.11ac Wi-Fi hotpot for mobile devices inside the car, and vehicle to vehicle/infrastructure/pedestrian communications.
The 820A also uses Qualcomm’s Zeroth machine intelligence platform, which is designed to help automakers develop deep learning-based solutions using neural networks for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and in-vehicle infotainment using the heterogeneous compute engines that are part of the Snapdragon 820A.
Qualcomm demonstrated some of its ADAS and infotainment capabilities with Audi, which integrated the previously announced Snapdragon 602A processor into an Audi Q7. The 602A processors—which contain a quad-core Qualcomm Krait CPU, Adreno320 GPU, Qualcomm Hexagon DSP, integrated GNSS baseband processing, and additional high-performance audio, video and communication cores—will be used in Audi’s 2017 vehicles and possibly displace Nvidia’s design wins with the automaker.
Although Nvidia has previously won over Audi with its high performance graphics, Tirias Principal Analyst Jim McGregor said competition for infotainment systems is fierce. Both Qualcomm and Nvidia have excellent graphics units, but Qualcomm will be able to differentiate itself with an LTE modem.
In this demonstration the infotainment system tracks lane information and, using Zeroth’s machine learning, can recognize traffic signs in real time to enhance speed limit warnings. Zeroth also enables through cameras mounted near the steering wheel to monitor the facial features of the driver and monitor for distractions.
The Snapdragon 602A will allow for improved safety and fuel economy while doubling the performance of Audi’s MMI operating system for multimedia and navigation, said Ricky Hudi, Audi AG executive vice president of electronic development. When Audi is ready to upgrade its SoCs for next-generation communications and vehicles, it can swap the 602 module for an 820A or 820Am.
The 602A module. Source: Qualcomm
Qualcomm hopes that its modular approach and heterogeneous computing will enable hardware and software updates so vehicle infotainment systems can easily get the latest technology. Vehicles in the near future will require high definition map data for streaming, cloud-based navigation, and piloted driving in addition to the higher performance and lower latency of 5G cellular connectivity.
Still, car makers aren't loyal to any chip company and favor competition that encourages low prices, McGregor noted. The chip makers that will likely win in this space -- though there won't be a single winner in ADAS or infotainment -- will be companies like NXP and Renesas who have been in the automotive world for years but tend not to publicize their design wins.
The 820A family will sample in the first quarter of 2016.
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