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The Digital Chassis is the future of automotive and chipmaker Qualcomm is well positioned to deliver it

In September of 1882, Thomas Edison flipped a switch inside his Pearl Street Station, delivering electricity to 3,000 incandescent light bulbs across Lower Manhattan and igniting a revolution of interconnected technology. Nearly a century and a half later, 5G is on the verge of a similar transformative moment, ushering in a new era in which everybody and everything will be connected, driving a digital transformation of all industries, in all corners of the globe. 

This digital transformation is on a scale like we’ve never seen before, and 5G is the key ingredient fueling it. Unlike the G’s before it, 5G is the first generation of mobile technology designed to go beyond the smartphone. It is networks for all devices and industries, ranging from computers and XR headsets to factories and farms.  

No industry will be left untouched, including automotive, which is already in the midst of its digital transformation. Carmakers are working to phase out the internal combustion engine. They are connecting the car to other cars and its surrounding environment. And to support this, they are integrating advanced technologies, such as always connected, high performance, power efficient systems that are entirely transforming the driving experience. 

The future was laid out before auto executives, journalists, and thought leaders at this year’s IAA Mobility in Munich. Qualcomm President and CEO Cristiano Amon delivered a main stage keynote address, during which he explained how 5G and advanced technologies will fuel change within the auto industry.

Amon speaks to the vision of a Digital Chassis when he talks about the suite of technologies and solutions that are being designed into the automobile. Technologies that are enabling a digital cockpit, extending telematics capabilities, enabling the automaker to offer car-to- cloud services over the air after the point of sale, and putting us on a path toward greater autonomy

Breaking it down:

Think of the digital cockpit as the brain of the vehicle – the hub that commands cutting-edge entertainment experiences, new services, and enhanced safety in a transformed driving journey. Driver-friendly interfaces control streaming content, digital personalization, and customizable settings, creating a fully tailored environment. 

Telematics will go beyond driving directions. When 5G becomes more fully integrated into the things around us, cars will begin communicating with traffic lights, traffic signs, pedestrians, and bicyclists, increasing both safety and energy efficiency. The automobile will in effect be one of the many things that are part of the connected intelligent edge, working with the cloud and other devices to foster an information exchange that enables artificial intelligence to adjust driving in real-time.  

To date, for the majority of cars, once the car has driven off the lot, the sale is over. But once the car is connected, automakers can continue to provide subscription services such as roadside assistance, software updates, video streaming, upgrade or provide new features on a customer need basis. These car-to-cloud services will provide new revenue streams for the auto industry and upgrade the driver experience. In fact we heard Mary Barra, CEO of GM, taking about this as a key growth opportunity for them in the coming years.

Lastly, Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS), are designed to increase driver safety while operating the vehicle. Solutions that scale from entry tier, such as lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and high beam safety system to full autonomous driving.

Amon doesn’t just talk about a Digital Chassis as a theoretical but as something that is becoming a reality today. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Digital Chassis is a one stop shop for the auto industry. With the Snapdragon Digital Chassis, automakers have access to a full suite of technology for creating connected and intelligent vehicles that are highly customizable, experiential and upgradable, redefining modern vehicles and consumer expectations.

Amon went as far as to note, “our approach towards the Snapdragon digital chassis is really to replicate in the automotive industry what we have done in mobile for decades which is to create a platform that is horizontal and that builds robust, sustainable ecosystems.”  

To further validate their commitment, Qualcomm and SSW Partners just reached a definitive agreement to acquire Veoneer. This acquisition augments Qualcomm’s ability to create a leading and horizontal, open and competitive ADAS platform for the global auto industry.  

Though best known for mobile technology, Qualcomm is no newcomer to the auto industry. The company has been working with carmakers since 2004, providing 3G and 4G chips for streaming and on-board telematics, connecting cars to the cloud and delivering computing solutions for a wide array of vehicles. But the next decade will be even busier: already, it has working relationships with 23 of the 26 major car brands, with a 10-year, $10 billion pipeline in place. 

If there are not already enough reasons for the auto industry to embrace its own digital transformation, environmental sustainability is another. It is well understood that electric vehicles are revolutionizing the road, minimizing fossil fuel emissions, increasing efficiency, and helping in the battle against climate change. The electric vehicle movement is environmentally responsible, technologically revolutionary and an economic driver. The digital chassis provides a power efficient platform for the transition to electric vehicles. The integration of 5G has a similar promise, enabling smarter, safer, greener, and more efficient transportation. As Qualcomm recently announced in their 5G Sustainability report, “optimized use of lane management systems and traffic management systems enabled by C-V2x can account for fuel savings of up to 20%.” The 5G connection is the onramp to a better future.