Qualcomm eyes a larger role in defining next-gen vehicles

Whether the Magna deal reaches fruition, Qualcomm’s interest in Veoneer and its Arriver software stack has delivered a message.

“We believe having access to a stack like that is really important, one that’s proven in the industry, and the takeaway, I think, is that we are serious about this business and serious about the partnerships we create,” Duggal said. “For us, this is the digital chassis.”

Digital chassis is an umbrella term that’s “not a moniker for marketing,” he said. It encompasses all the company’s work in automotive, spanning telematics, automation, digital cockpits and car-to-cloud technology.

In an age of software sophistication, Duggal said automakers are increasingly leery of buying these systems and their components a la carte and prefer comprehensive, turnkey alternatives.

A Veoneer acquisition would, at least in theory, anchor advanced driver-assistance systems and be one more of the puzzle pieces that make up such a package, one that potentially pairs well with cellular V2X technology, especially in China, where “vehicle to everything” technology is already used as an infrastructure-based sensor for automated systems.

“It’s no longer a vertical silo when we talk about this, because there are dependencies between infotainment and ADAS, and telematics and V2X,” Duggal said. “The software has to be common. … These are all decisions that carmakers are going to need to make every three years, and they’re not going to want to wake up and say, ‘Let’s start all over again.’ So we’re committed to this space for the long haul.”

In many ways, the patience required for that long haul has already been demonstrated. Qualcomm has not merely capitalized on trends with cellular V2X and 5G; it’s laid the groundwork to make those technologies both viable and scalable for automotive uses. An early example: It invested in modems for automotive when there was no market in 2002.

“That didn’t deter us,” Duggal said. “Nobody asked us to come and supply modems, and those early volumes were not all that great. We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do, and because we thought at some point in time it’d make sense. We occupy a solid position today because of those decisions made 20 years ago. So these things, to me, are really about your company work ethic, and are you committed for the right reasons? Then everything else follows.”

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