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Qualcomm is primarily known to power smartphones but that is just one side of it. The company has been powering automobile sector as well, both four and two wheelers, with its technologies and solutions. From Mahindra’s XUV700 to Ola’s electric scooter, the US-based company has been lending its support for the new age innovations like autonomous driving and telematics. Rajen Vagadia, VP and President at Qualcomm India, shared some of the company’s offering transforming the automotive industry as India readies itself to roll out 5G services soon.

Can you help us understand the role Qualcomm is playing in creating connected and intelligent automotive experiences? 

With over 20 years of experience, Qualcomm serves as the technology provider for the global automotive industry, working alongside global automakers and their Tier 1 partners, who are increasingly using a broad portfolio of our automotive solutions. In the past, the automotive industry relied on low-cost highly optimized manufacturing supported by robust R&D and skilled labor. Today, a growing customer demand for unique features and use cases for next-gen automobiles and transportation solutions is steadily increasing, creating tremendous opportunity for modernization that which is led by:

• Electrification and battery electric vehicles that in turn require the deployment of charging infrastructure and innovation in battery technology

• Advanced semiconductors and software that allow automakers to redesign the electronics and digital architecture to create a continuously evolving platform on wheels, where a software-defined vehicle takes the lead

• Always-connected vehicle platforms that enable a plethora of use cases unlocking new business models that accommodate passenger vehicles, commercial fleets, shared mobility, and all forms of fractional ownership

• Automated driving that makes cars safer; a highly-assisted experience that allows drivers to disengage and, potentially, be removed altogether — enabling a variety of new use cases in passenger and commercial applications

At Qualcomm Technologies, we are continuously innovating on our transportation solutions portfolio, developing an ever-evolving roadmap of products, technology innovations, and partnerships to help redefine the new automotive and transportation economy. Our innovations are bringing the consumer, wireless technologies, semiconductor, cloud, and software platforms together with 5G, AI, XR, and high-performance compute along with advanced audio, video, camera, displays, and sensor technology — all designed to deliver premium in-vehicle and on-road consumer experiences.

There have been conversations about the Snapdragon Digital Chassis. Can you help us understand the architecture?   

The Snapdragon Digital Chassis is a comprehensive set of cloud-connected automotive platforms for – telematics and connectivity, computing, driver assistance and autonomy. Automakers use these to create customization which is built on four pillars – Digital Cockpit; Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and Autonomous Driving (AD); Auto Connectivity Platforms; and Car-to-Cloud Services. Let us talk a bit more about these four offerings.

The Snapdragon Digital Cockpit Platform provides automakers with the opportunity to transform in-car experiences and offers an always-connected System-on-Chip (SoC) and virtualized software solutions. The Digital Cockpit creates a multi-display, multi-camera, premium audio, video, and multimedia experience that supports both safety as well as the overall consumer experience. 

The ADAS solution offers a full set of advanced features for drive assistance and autonomy. It offers a flexible architecture that allows automakers and Tier 1 (key design and manufacturing partners) to bring their own drive policy, parking or driver monitoring stack, and advanced navigation that can be integrated with our turnkey Arriver based driver assistance stack.

The Auto Connectivity Platform allows automakers to meet the increasing demands of safer and more immersive driving experiences. It is powered by LTE, 5G connected services, cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and precise positioning – which, together, securely connect vehicles to-the cloud, to each other, and to the surrounding environment and infrastructure. 

Our Car-to-Cloud Services enable automakers to offer flexibility of features, performance upgrades, and new functionalities through pre-integrated software and services platforms that are designed for new monetization models, which automakers can develop.

Which are the Indian auto OEMs that Qualcomm is currently working with? What are the kinds of technologies that Qualcomm is providing these OEMs? 

In India we work with almost all the big auto OEMs both in the 4-wheeler and the 2-wheeler segment. 

To name a few publicly announced engagements, we partnered with Mahindra on the very successful XUV700 for their 'SmartCore' cockpit domain controller technology, which is powered by the 3rd-generation Snapdragon Cockpit Platforms, developed in collaboration with Visteon to transform in-vehicle experiences for the India market. 

We also provide the technology powering the Ola Electric scooters. The platform used provides connectivity, computing capabilities and enables rich immersive displays with power saving software. 

Ather Energy also uses our Snapdragon platform in their smart electric scooters. 

How will 5G and other advanced technologies help transform the auto industry? 

The automotive sector has seen high tech adoption over the last year that has surpassed the cumulative rate of the past five years. Automobiles now offer an increasingly future-ready experience that will enable the passenger to drive comfortably, be safe and better entertained. These include 4G and 5G connectivity that enable high bandwidth channels for high resolution touch screen displays, high resolution media streaming and high-definition video. Broad automotive industry trends of electrification, mobility-as-a-service, and autonomous driving are already taking advantage of new 5G connectivity solutions. C-V2X supported by 5G through advanced alerts and ADAS will exponentially enhance driver safety. The 5G roll out and EV adoption in India will lead to deeper partnerships between the auto ecosystem where partners will leverage each other’s capabilities to drive faster innovation. Start-ups are using 5G in their designs to offer services and solutions taking advantage of lower latency, faster and better bandwidth and higher security offered by 5G. 

From an India standpoint, with 5G still around the corner, do you think there will be a delay in the auto sector undergoing a transformation?

The transformation is already underway, as evidenced in the latest vehicles launched by auto makers and the depth of technology-driven user experiences that are being integrated into the dashboard and other parts of the automobile. 5G, telematics, and ADAS will redefine in-vehicle experiences for passengers and enable a host of safety and traffic-related use cases. 5G will also support C-V2X technologies that allow vehicles to communicate directly with each other-vehicle to vehicle(V2V), roadside infrastructure-vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), vehicle to internet (V2I) and vehicle to pedestrians (V2P). This will encourage safe behavior among drivers and everyone on the road. While V2X features were earlier found only in high-end luxury vehicles, they are now commonly seen across all car segments. It is expected tha by the year 2024, 5G use cases such as fleet telematics devices and in-vehicle toll devices will leverage the already available V2X features in cars,  expediting the transition to intelligent transportation.

What is your take on the current scenario of the automotive industry in India? What are your thoughts on the PLI for the sector?

The Indian automobile industry has been in transition with the evolution of the EV ecosystem and disruption created due to the pandemic. However, the sector has also seen good investments, new OEMs & factories which will eventually lead to increases in employment opportunities. The production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme by the government announced last year is proving to be a big catalyst as it will help global companies move parts of their supply chain to India. With the advent of 5G and smart technologies accelerating the scale of connectivity and processing at the edge, the demand for more innovation will only continue to grow, creating greater opportunities within sectors like automotive, healthcare and manufacturing. This will also enable local companies to serve not just India but also export their products. Major announcements from the Union Budget like a new battery swapping policy and implementation of electric vehicles in the commercial vehicle segment will certainly help the sector in the long run. The growth of the battery swapping infrastructure will help encourage a higher adoption of EV vehicles, especially in the 2 and 3-wheeler commercial vehicle segment. This has increased focus on expanding EV infrastructure across the country, with more EV charging stations to help vehicle owners shift to electric cars without any after-sales concerns. This will also encourage the sector to create sustainable and innovative business models for battery and energy-as-a-service, thereby improving the efficiency of the EV ecosystem in the country.

Is Qualcomm working with any startups that cater to the auto space? What is the kind of involvement that you have?

Start-ups play a crucial role in the automotive ecosystem, which Qualcomm constantly supports. Over last several years, Qualcomm has worked with some start-ups to move from the drawing board to launching a commercial product through various programs, such as Qualcomm Design in India Challenge. The Indian EV space is creating new opportunities for EV startups to enter and disrupt the industry. We also intend to continue to play the role of a catalyst by being early investors in prospective startups in the automotive segment through our venture arm, Qualcomm Ventures.

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