Qualcomm kicks its automotive ambitions up another gear, partners with VW and more

While Qualcomm continues to work on closing its $47 billion acquisition of automotive chipmaker NXP, it’s also driving ahead with developing car technology on its own steam. Today at CES, the chipmaker unveiled several initiatives to drive further into the connected car space, including a partnership with Volkswagen, a connected car trial in Germany, a new class of high-bandwidth, Gigabit LTE for vehicles, and more.

As Patrick Little, Qualcomm’s SVP and GM for automotive tech, described it, the company is looking to develop end-to-end car technology for the next generation of connected vehicles. “There are three aspects to connected car processing technology: sense, think and act,” he said in a short interview with TechCrunch today at CES after the company’s press event earlier today. “NXP is really good at the ‘sense’ and ‘act’ parts, and we’re building the ‘think’ part.”

Here’s a short run-down of what Qualcomm is building in the automotive space:

Vehicle-to-everything connectivity field trial: Qualcomm is working with Audi, Ericsson SWARCO Traffic Systems and the University of Kaiserslautern on a new consortium called the Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow (ConVeX). This will be focused on building a cellular-V2X (C-V2X) trial to explore ways of connecting Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P). This is less about autonomous vehicles and more about simply making cars work “like phones” in terms of their seamless connectivity, Little explained.

Gigabit LTE class for cars. Little told me that these days “a very high quality connection is the top priority right now” for automakers, and this new class of LTE, he said, would essentially make the Internet connection speeds in your vehicle just as fast as those in your home (that’s assuming you are not a customer of Comcast… ;-) ). This new LTE variant reference platform is based on Qualcomm’s Gigabit Class Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE modem and would offer a peak download speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Qualcomm already has a base of customers using 3G/4G LTE modems in connected cars, so this will be about upgrading existing carmakers, as well as snagging new ones. “We work with everyone who is working in automotive right now,” Little told me.

Volkswagen infotainment systems. Volkswagen is making a lot of moves to position itself in the market for new cars, launching a new brand, Moia, to move beyond some of its recent scandals to focus on the future. It looks like Qualcomm will be working on it at least for part of that, by integrating its 820 chipsets and modems into Volkswagen vehicles to power the streaming for its in-car entertainment and information systems. Again, as with the LTE Gigabit news, this is about creating in-car systems that work as well as our best smartphones and mobile networks work. Today, this may be a service reserved for high-end vehicles, but many automakers believe that it will become ubiquitous enough that good and reliable in-car systems will be table stakes.