By rolling out new vehicle connectivity solutions, Qualcomm, already a dominant force in the automotive connectivity market, is accelerating its lead
BARCELONA — Besides showing off the company’s 5G technology prowess in the mobile handset and cellular network equipment markets, Qualcomm is ratcheting up its “connected vehicle” narrative at the Mobile World Congress this week.
Newly launched at the show is a portfolio of automotive wireless solutions for next-generation connected vehicles. They include Snapdragon automotive 4G and 5G platforms in addition to a new automotive Wi-Fi 6 chip, the QCA6696, designed to bring the next generation of Wi-Fi connectivity to the automotive industry.
With these new chips, Qualcomm is blanketing every aspect of connectivity required by future and present vehicles. They range from 4G/5G for drivers and passengers, in-car Wi-Fi and car OEM services, Cellular V2X (C-V2X) for car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication and precise positioning required for lane-level accuracy.
Many traditional automotive chip suppliers do not show up in Barcelona to pitch their newest silicon, but Qualcomm is an exception. Despite shelving its plan to acquire NXP Semiconductors last summer, Qualcomm sees automotive as crucial to its diversification strategy.
By rolling out new vehicle connectivity solutions, Qualcomm, already a dominant force in the automotive connectivity market, is accelerating its lead. Its goal is simple: Leverage the strong ties it has cultivated with carmakers in the connected vehicle field to pry open the rest of the automotive electronics market for itself.
5G Dual SIM Dual Active
Connected vehicles have different meanings to different people. On one hand, automotive OEMs seek “connectivity” to offer vehicles a variety of new services — including over-the-air (OTA) software updates, functionality upgrades for cars already on the road, maintenance of parts and components and collecting information on vehicles in general. On the other hand, vehicle owners want to connect their vehicles to the Internet so that passengers can not just surf the web but enjoy streaming entertainment.
Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm's senior vice president of product management, told EE Times that included on the Snapdragon Automotive 5G Platform is dual SIM dual active (DSDA). This is a big deal for car OEMs, according to Duggal, because they wonder: “Am I offering 5G connectivity in my new vehicle so that I can enable OTA, or am I also paying for passengers’ data plan?”
Qualcomm is the first to understand car OEMs’ anxiety by offering a dual SIM — one for drivers and another for passengers — that can remain active simultaneously but keep billing for the network services separate, explained Duggal. Car OEMs don’t have to buy two chips to keep dual SIM active because “you can use a single SIM card to identify separate users and bill it separately” in Qualcomm’s solution.
Qualcomm maintains that the almost decade-long debate over DSRC vs. Cellular V-2X will come to an end as C-V2X comes for free as a part of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon automotive 5G platform. “There is no need for OEMs to buy and integrate a separate DSRC chip,” Duggal told us.
C-V2X supports direct V2V and direct V2I communications concurrently with 4G and 5G WWAN vehicle-to-network (V2N) connectivity.
** Accurate positioning**
The Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G Platforms support “concurrent multi-frequency, multi-constellation GNSS” including GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BDS and QZSS.
Qualcomm’s enhanced navigation features also include support for dead reckoning, which the company explained “provides location data by combining a previous location with the present fix to determine one’s position in challenging driving environments.”
Added to Qualcomm’s Connected Car Reference Design, which consists of Snapdragon Automotive 4G or 5G, integrated RF front-end solutions, C-V2X and HP-GNSS support and apps processors, is Qualcomm’s Vision Enhanced Precise Positioning (VEPP).
VEPP “fuses multiple automotive sensors — GNSS, a camera, an inertial measurement unit (IMU), and wheel sensors — to offer more accurate global positioning,” according to Qualcomm. Qualcomm is confident that VEPP will prove to be “a very cost-effective solution for car OEMs” because it uses sensors already present in today’s vehicles.
Specifically, Qualcomm claims that VEPP testing achieved “lane-level accuracy — accurate to < 1 meter.” In contrast, today’s GNSS-based solutions can achieve similar results only in open-sky conditions and by incorporating IMU and wheel sensors, according to Qualcomm.
Although some industry analysts question whether sub-1meter accuracy qualifies as precise positioning, Qualcomm explained that VEPP can keep a vehicle “always in the lane” and it does it “even in deep urban canyons.”
As Duggal pointed out during an interview with EE Times, all these positioning features will make “lane-level navigation” available for the “mass market” vehicles.
Advanced Wi-Fi connectivity for automotive
In addition to the Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G Platforms, Qualcomm is rolling out QCA6696 chip, its “most advanced Wi-Fi solution designed to meet consumer demands for fast, secure and efficient Wi-Fi connectivity.” It responds to the need for “greater robustness and reduced latency when operating in congested and dense environments,” the company added.
Specifically, the QCA6696 chip features dual Wi-Fi 6 multiple-input multiple output (MIMO) access points designed to support a Gigabit in-car hotspot and deliver efficient Wi-Fi, supporting ultra-high definition (ultra-HD) video streaming on multiple displays, screen mirroring from compatible devices and wireless back-up cameras, as well as Bluetooth 5.1 support and Qualcomm’s Adaptive audio to deliver high fidelity voice and streaming audio support.
The QCA6696 chip also features full MIMO client capability designed to extend range at high data rates for connecting to external access points for services such as vehicle diagnostics, software updates and automatic check-ins when pulling up to dealerships.
The new Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G Platforms are scheduled for sampling later this year. They are planned for production vehicles in 2021. Qualcomm explained that automakers will also be able to access the new platforms through the 2nd generation Qualcomm Connected Car Reference Design anticipated to be available this year.
Meanwhile, the QCA6696 chip is now sampling and is expected to appear in commercial vehicles in 2021.