Volkswagen software arm bets on Qualcomm chips for automated-driving functions

05 May 2022

Volkswagen (VW) Group’s software arm Cariad has struck up a partnership with US chip maker Qualcomm Technologies to develop assisted and automated-driving functions up to SAE level 4. The carmaker will rely on Qualcomm’s system-on-chips (SoCs) for its software platform.

VW described the partnership as the first of its kind for the company. While the car manufacturer did not disclose financial details, local media suggest that the deal is worth more than €1 billion. Cariad will rely on Qualcomm’s SoCs to offer automated-driving services to all VW Group passenger-car brands. The chips will be key components in Cariad’s Compute platform, which is expected to launch in VW brand vehicles from 2025.

Connected-car technology

‘The connected and automated car of the future is a high-performance computer on wheels. Behind it lies enormously complex computing power,’ said Cariad CEO Dirk Hilgenberg.

‘With our automated-driving solutions, we are striving to let customers take their hands off the steering wheel in the future. Our software and Qualcomm Technologies’ high-performance SoCs are the perfect match to bring this new automotive experience to customers around the world.’

Qualcomm Technologies is one of the main players in the semiconductor industry, with the company developing high-performance computer chips. Cariad said it would use SoCs from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Ride Platform portfolio. With the level of innovation increasing in connected cars, manufacturers are eager to foster strong partnerships with tech companies to deliver safe and reliable automated-driving experiences for consumers.

BMW recently signed a deal with Qualcomm to co-develop next-generation automated-driving technologies, ranging from new-car assessment programmes to SAE level 3 functionalities. Mercedes-Benz also forged a relationship with Qualcomm on connected-car technologies years ago, with VW being the latest German carmaker to rely on the American company for chips.

Scalable chips

‘Finding the best balance between scalability, costs, and performance was one of our biggest challenges for the design of our new high-performance Compute platform,’ said Klaus Hofmockel, senior VP hardware development at Cariad. ‘Qualcomm Technologies’ fully scalable SoC line-up delivers very efficient computing performance in combination with energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness.’

VW is invested in ramping up technology for autonomous vehicles, which is central to its New Auto strategy. This includes traditional vehicle manufacturing, but also producing battery cells and offering energy services, as well as providing mobility solutions and software.

Cariad is known for developing automated-driving functions up to SAE level 4, and the cooperation with Qualcomm will help the company optimise high-performance semiconductors. Cariad was established two years ago, with a clear focus on creating a uniform software platform for all VW brands. It is also working on advanced-driver assistance (ADAS) systems, a standardised infotainment platform, software functions for linking powertrains, and chassis and charging technology.

In January, Cariad announced a cooperation with Bosch to develop software for automated driving to be used in VW cars. The companies expect to implement SAE level 2 software in VW vehicles from 2023. More recently, the software firm acquired the automotive division of Intenta GmbH, which develops sensor data.