As seen at CES and at many other technology events, the automotive sector has become a magnet platform for new leading-edge technology. As the segment transitions to electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous vehicles (AVs), it is leveraging the latest in connectivity, display, graphics, networking, processing, sensor, and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AL/ML) technologies. As a result, technology companies are pushing the limits of innovation. Qualcomm just took another major step in automotive connectivity innovation with the introduction of a new Snapdragon Auto 5G Modem-RF Gen 2 platform that brings living room-quality broadband into the car.
At CES in January, Qualcomm had an impressive demonstration of its Digital Chassis platform in the form of a custom-built car. The working prototype EV/AV car leveraged the Digital Chassis’ advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), cockpit, connectivity, and software technologies all integrated into an attractive high-performance passenger vehicle. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Qualcomm took a major step forward with automotive connectivity technology with the new Snapdragon Auto 5G Modem-RF Gen 2 platform. Offering increased processing power and system capacity (doubled from the previous generation), this latest auto modem-RF platform will support safer and more connected in-vehicle experiences thanks to lower latency for content streaming on multiple devices simultaneously, precise positioning autonomous driving and more. Riders and passengers will have an opportunity to have a more personalized surrounding and experience with the platform’s support for connected services and applications.
Much like the Qualcomm’s leading edge connectivity solutions for smartphones and mobile devices the new auto modem-RF platform brings some of the latest connectivity technology to meet the telematics and C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything, including other vehicles, pedestrians, and roadside infrastructure) requirements of the automotive segment.
This new modem is compatible with the 3GPP Release 16 specification with some slight differences that are more in line with automotive OEM requirements. The modem is supports some of the functions included in Releases 17 (frozen in 2022) and 18 (anticipated in 2024). In that regard, Qualcomm’s latest auto modem-RF platform features 200MHz aggregated sub-6GHz bandwidth paired with multi-gigabit ethernet support of on vehicle networks. This essentially brings the equivalent of home broadband into the car, which is critical both for the real-time updates that will be required for AVs and the advanced occupant gaming and entertainment systems that are under development.
Unlike Qualcomm’s other 5G platforms, the Snapdragon Auto 5G Modem-RF Gen 2 platform will not support mmWave. But this is not a technology currently required by automotive OEMs. However, the auto modem-RF platform is based on the latest modem and RF technology and mmWave could be supported in future revisions. This new platform does, however, support satellite communications, referred to as non-terrestrial (NTN), to help ensure connectivity is ubiquitously available for applications that utilize two-way messaging.
The new modem chipset also delivers more processing performance with a quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 CPU cluster, rather than the single core CPU in the previous generation. The reason for this is to allow for more processing directly on the connectivity chipset, rather than requiring an external applications processor. Not only does this allow for higher functional processing of the modem and network processing, but also provides the ability to run OEM or 3rd-party operating systems and applications on the modem chipset. These applications are believed to be a critical component for the monetization of future transportation platforms. The auto modem-RF platform also includes a processing core optimized V2X core for CV2X processing requirements.
The auto modem-RF platform is also supported by the complete Qualcomm Telematics Application Framework (TelAF), shortening the platform development time and Qualcomm’s Car-to-Cloud service, an infrastructure for over-the-air software updates and on-demand services.
This is the 2nd generation 5G chipset and the 8th generation connectivity chipset Qualcomm has developed for the automotive segment, which it pioneered starting with 3G technology. The Snapdragon Auto 5G Modem-RF Gen 2 platform brings more processing, networking, and connectivity performance in a smaller and more power-efficient form factor, which are all key requirements for the automotive segment. It is also a key steppingstone to for future automotive platforms or what I like to call “the living car,” a vehicle that has all the technology comforts you would expect in your living home or office for both work and recreation.