AWS and Qualcomm to co-innovate around auto, with BMW for one

AI is already one of the biggest trends to impact industries of all sorts, and will inevitably transform the auto industry as well as suppliers selling chips and components into the auto sector.

One company, Qualcomm, has over the past year put a big focus on chips and related software for smart automotive functions with its Snapdragon Digital Chassis tech, even as Nvidia and Intel Mobileye have claimed a stake in chips for the auto market.  But Nvidia’s big generative AI play, with advanced GPUs, has been heavily focused on data center servers—although there’s no doubt the data center and cloud capabilities affect future autonomous vehicles.

At IAA Mobility in Munich on Sept. 5, Qualcomm capitalized on the far-reaching framework envisioned with software-defined vehicles working in the cloud. Specifically, Qualcomm announced a long-term co-innovation effort with Amazon Web Services on behalf of the auto industry.

In addition to AWS, Qualcomm mentioned, almost in passing, that its Cloud AI 100 and Snapdragon Ride Platforms (hardware and software) will be a part of the innovation with AWS. As an example, BMW Group was named as Snapdragon Ride customer, including its integrated Ride Vision software to enable 360-degree perception for vehicles.

“Together with AWS and Qualcomm, BMW can now leverage the benefits of leading hardware, vision software and cloud capabilities in a cohesive, integrated, end-to-end automated driving development platform,” Qualcomm said in a press release.

Qualcomm has previously said Cloud AI 100 is designed for AI inference acceleration to facilitate the ability for datacenters to run inference on the edge cloud faster and with greater efficiency.

“Automotive has been a massive focus for Qualcomm” with a $30 billion market opportunity, said analyst Daniel Newman of Futurum Research on Friday’s Six Five podcast.

He noted Qualcomm has design wins with major carmakers, including BMW, GM and Mercedes Benz.

Generative AI will play a role in onboard processing, he added. “Not only will cars move to electrification, [or] need a digital chassis.” Navigation, ADAS and telematics and infotainment will all rely on capabilities having to do with a smart chipset, he said, noting Qualcomm’s work with motorcycle giant Harley-Davidson.  Qualcomm sees the opportunity to work with most anything that “rolls, flies or floats.”

Noting Qualcomm’s partnership with automakers, Newman compared the company to Nvidia. “You’ve seen Qualcomm kind of flip-flopped with Nvidia,” he said. “Nvidia was the big one [in automotive] and while Nvidia has all this data center growth and business, quietly Qualcomm has kind of come underneath them and swiped a lot of design pipeline. This doesn’t happen over one or two years.” He said the movement toward a larger share of the automotive chip potential of $30 billion is still just $300 million or more each quarter for Qualcomm.

Analyst Patrick Moorhead from Moor Insights & Strategy called the Qualcomm announcement to work with AWS, with a mention of BMW, “very provocative” adding, “very rarely do you see this from AWS.”

Qualcomm’s AI 100 and other IP can be considered building blocks, he added on the podcast. “Similar building blocks, just more of it, that you might find in a smartphone will be supersized when it comes to Qualcomm’s automotive. And, if you look at the AI 100, it’s likely a supersized version of that. BMW needed a development environment.”

“I have to wonder, what on earth is Nvidia thinking of all of this?” Moorhead added. “Going back in history, Intel was the preferred supplier for BMW with Mobileye and that moved to Nvidia and it looks like BMW is all in on Qualcomm at this point. A developer even taking those caps to the public cloud where you have endless capabilities. I just have to wonder, Is this truly the credible beginning [of these capabilities]. This is the first public cloud connection we’ve seen for Qualcomm’s data center silicon. I’m interested to see what’s going to happen in the future.“

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