A trio of chips from Qualcomm will power the Ultra Cruise driver-assistance feature on a luxury Cadillac sedan next year, according to General Motors on Thursday.
The chips from Qualcomm will provide the computing power for the all-electric Celestiq, the company's planned flagship sedan. The automaker says Ultra Cruise will allow hands-free driving on both surface streets and freeways to account for up to 95% of roads in the United States and Canada, going beyond GM's current Super Cruise feature that only works on highways.
It's a supervised system, so you still have to pay attention. Jason Ditman, chief engineer for Ultra Cruise, said that the driver is given a hands-free experience in a much larger domain.
A computer about the size of two laptops, sandwiched together, will be the heart of the system. GM will provide the software to make the system work, and Qualcomm will provide key chips - two processor chips and one chip designed to speed up specific functions.
The deal is a milestone for Qualcomm, which dominates chips for mobile phones and has been diversifying its business. Qualcomm has a number of deals with automakers to provide chips for infotainment centers and 5 G connectivity, but GM is the first automaker to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon Ride chips for self-driving features.
Qualcomm is competing against Nvidia Corp and Intel Corp's Mobileye to win deals with automakers for self-driving chips. The energy efficiency of the chips is a key requirement for automakers in electric vehicles, where computers must compete for limited battery life with the drive train.
Qualcomm wants to lure automakers by using its history making chips for phones, where battery life is a key selling point. GM's Ditman wouldn't reveal how much power the Ultra Cruise computer uses, but the device is air-cooled, meaning that the chips will consume less power and generate less heat than rival offerings that need liquid cooling.
Ditman said that we're conscious of what power consumption is.