Qualcomm Blends AI and Silicon for New Autonomous Driving Platform

Qualcomm Technologies made several announcements at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year, but the company wowed attendees with its new Snapdragon Ride Platform, an autonomous driving solution that combines the company's Snapdragon family of automotive systems-on-chip (SoCs) with a purpose-built software stack.

Qualcomm is describing the new platform as "one of the automotive industry's most advanced, scalable and open autonomous driving solutions." Designed to address the complexity of autonomous driving and Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), it leverages Qualcomm's hardware, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and autonomous driving software. It combines the Snapdragon Ride Safety SoCs with the Snapdragon Ride Safety Accelerator and the Snapdragon Ride Autonomous Stack.

Combining the SoCs, accelerator and autonomous stack allows the company to offer automakers a scalable solution for three industry segments: L1/L2 Active Safety ADAS for vehicles that include automatic emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition and lane keeping assist functions; L2+ Convenience ADAS for vehicles featuring Automated Highway Driving, Self-Parking and Urban Driving in Stop-and-Go traffic; and L4/L5 Fully Autonomous Driving for autonomous urban driving, robo-taxis and robo-logistics.

"We've spent the last several years researching and developing our new autonomous platform and accompanying driving stack, identifying challenges and gathering insights from data analysis to address the complexities automakers want to solve," said Nakul Duggal, SVP of Qualcomm's product management group, in a statement.

The new platform is designed to manage a large amount of data from onboard systems, leveraging Qualcomm's next-generation AI engines, image signal processors for camera sensors, enhanced digital signal processors (DSPs) for sensor signal processing, high-performance CPUs for planning and decision making, the latest GPU technology for high-end visualization and immersive user experience, and dedicated safety and security subsystems across the SoC and autonomous driving accelerator.

The autonomous driving accelerator adds energy-efficient compute capabilities to mainstream vehicles, "which has so far been largely unavailable to the automotive industry," the company said, "because of exceptionally complex and expensive thermal solutions that are fundamentally unscalable because of their power consumption requirements."

The platform's purpose-built autonomous driving software stack is a modular and scalable solution the company is providing to automotive OEM and tier-1 suppliers. It includes optimized software and apps for such complex use cases as self-navigating and human-like highway driving, and it provides a choice of modular options, such as perception, localization, sensor fusion and behavior planning. This infrastructure supports customer-specific stack components that would be co-hosted with the Snapdragon Ride Autonomous Stack components.

Qualcomm said it's planning to release the new Snapdragon Ride Platform for pre-development to automakers and tier-1 suppliers in the first half of 2020. The company anticipates Snapdragon Ride-enabled vehicles to be in production in 2023.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at