Qualcomm ups the ante for connected cars with its new reference platform

2016 Chevrolet Cruze Android Auto 13

When you hear about Qualcomm you are probably thinking about new processors for mobile phones, and while that is a huge part of Qualcomm’s business it isn’t the only thing which it does. One area of cross-over between smartphones and other industries is connectivity. Your phone got Bluetooth? Sure it has, but probably so does your car! Qualcomm is actually quite big in the automotive industry and it has so far shipped more than 340 million car chips and can be found in models from over 20 car makers.

The next step beyond just Bluetooth is the fully connected car. To that end Qualcomm has announced its new Connected Car Reference Platform which is designed to make it easier for automakers to move to advanced and complex connectivity in the next-generation of connected cars.

So just how much connectivity can a car have? Lots! The new platforms has everything from 4G LTE to Gigabit Ethernet with a bunch of wireless protocols thrown in for good measure. For 4G, Qualcomm offers its X12 LTE modem (the same modem found in the Snapdragon 820) and its X5 LTE modem (used in the Snapdragon 616, 415, 212 etc). On top of the 4G LTE stuff there is a quad-constellation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, plus Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications. On top of that there is also broadcast capabilities such as analog and digital tuner support using software-defined radio via Qualcomm’s tuneX chips.

Qualcomm didn't say anything about security or about how it will protect drivers from bad upgrades or from hackers.

As with all reference platforms it is a showcase of all that is possible using Qualcomm’s technology, however that doesn’t mean the full gamut will be used in every car. Scalability is the watch word here, with Qualcomm keen to emphasize the use of a common framework that scales from a basic setup with a few connectivity options all the way up to a fully connected and complex system.

One interesting, and equally terrifying aspect, of the Qualcomm Connected Car Reference Platform is the support for  over-the-air software upgrades as well as future-proofing features which allow a vehicle’s connectivity hardware and software to be upgraded through its life time. While the idea of over-the-air software upgrades as well as future-proofing sounds great on paper, Qualcomm didn’t say anything about security or about how it will protect drivers from bad upgrades or from hackers.

The reference platform supports  a large number of in-car hardware architectures and is expected to be available by the end of 2016. If you are keen on all things car related then you will be pleased to hear that Qualcomm is showcasing the Connected Car Reference Platform at the TU-Automotive Detroit conference on June 8-9.