Qualcomm eyes smart cars with latest Snapdragon automotive chip

The chipmaker unveiled the latest generation of its automotive-grade system-on-chip with the Snapdragon 820A, built off of its latest mobile phone processors.

US chipmaker Qualcomm is known for its processors that power mobile phones. But now the San Diego, Calif.-based tech firm is searching for growth opportunities outside of the mobile market, and hopes it can bring its mobile prowess to the auto industry.

Qualcomm on Tuesday made a slew of announcements focused on building out the company's offerings for the connected car -- a major technology theme so far during this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

To that end, the chipmaker unveiled the latest generation of its automotive-grade system-on-chip (SoC) with the Snapdragon 820A. Built off of its latest mobile phone processors, Qualcomm says the chip offers "a scalable next-generation infotainment, graphics and multimedia platform with machine intelligence and a version with integrated LTE-Advanced connectivity".

Qualcomm's first SoC for the auto industry, the Snapdragon 602A, came during CES 2014. Two years on, the company says German auto manufacturer Audi plans to utilize the chips in its 2017 vehicles.

To back up its latest processor family, Qualcomm says it is expanding its investment in automotive technology. Its portfolio for the market includes technology for telematics and connectivity, high definition graphics and multimedia for in-vehicle infotainment systems, machine intelligence and sensor fusion for driver assistance systems, GNSS location technologies, V2X (Vehicle to Vehicle/Infrastructure/Pedestrian) communications, and wireless charging for electric vehicles.

"The speed of innovation within vehicle electronics is rapidly accelerating, requiring advanced integration and technology convergence leadership to deliver the challenging user experiences and continuous cost reductions expected by our customers," said Patrick Little, SVP and GM of Qualcomm's automotive unit.

Qualcomm also unveiled a new Bluetooth Smart 4.2 SoC family. The company touts the chip being specifically designed for the "always-on" world. Qualcomm said the CSR102x family is optimized for applications in the Internet of Things, including wireless remote controls, smart watches, home automation and beacons.

Also focused on IoT is Qualcomm's newly minted Smart Home Reference Platform, based upon the Snapdragon 212 processor. Qualcomm says the platform is designed to provide computing, voice recognition, audio, display, camera, connectivity, and control capabilities for home control hubs and smart speakers.

Qualcomm says the automotive-grade 820A family will begin sampling in the first quarter of this year and that it will be giving demos and showing off concept vehicles based on the chip in its Qualcomm Automotive CES booth.