Why Consumer Mobile Tech Will Power the Next Generation of Cars 

Insights from five years of building on Qualcomm’s platform.

By John Hayes

September 22, 2022

3 minute read

Source: Qualcomm (CES 2022)

Editor's Note: This post was adapted from the following Twitter thread published by John Hayes:

Congratulations to Qualcomm on their continued success in automotive, announcing a now $30Bn pipeline after adding $11Bn in just the past two months at their Automotive Investor Day event. 

At Ghost, we’ve been building on Qualcomm’s platform for five years. Here’s why I believe Qualcomm’s mobile heritage gives them a big structural advantage for powering the next generation of cars.

Today’s phones have a lot in common with tomorrow’s cars:

  1. Cameras
  2. Batteries
  3. Software
  4. AI

1. Cameras: Qualcomm Finally Brings Good Cameras to Cars

Consumer mobile delivers 48MP cameras, while automotive grade today is at 8MP or less. Qualcomm is bringing higher resolution and higher dynamic range to the car, unlocking a new wave of AI & camera-based driving systems (like Ghost).

2. Batteries: EV-Ready Power Envelope

Consumer mobile is optimized for extreme battery constraints.  Cars must optimize for EV range or fuel economy.

Like phones, modern cars will be “always on,” running driving software and in-car apps. Qualcomm has the only SoC today that can deliver all the applications with minimal impact on EV range or fuel economy. 

This is not a downscaled data center chip. It’s an upscaled mobile chip with serious capabilities. With Qualcomm’s low power draw & power management, Ghost is driving autonomously with <120W (vs 1000W+ alternatives). 

3. Software: Chips that Power Every Use Case

Consumer mobile left “baby software” behind long ago.  Today you can do almost anything on your phone. Qualcomm chips can support that complexity – both in your phone and in your car.  With only Qualcomm mobile chips, we’re doing L4 autonomous driving on the highway.

4. AI: Rapid Advancements Make Custom Chips Nearly Obsolete

Consumer mobile is how AI reaches the most people today. Cars are next.  

Qualcomm is rapidly improving AI performance, adding NN processing and accelerated DSP for high-res images.  It’s going to be really hard for custom chip projects to keep up with the SoCs/GPUs in your phone. A lot of car companies have opted to build their own silicon, but I sense that those will always be playing catch-up. 

Consumer mobile will help scale autonomous driving

Consumer Scale

Another artifact of Qualcomm’s mobile heritage: these chips are built for the consumer mass market. 

Consumer mobile is all about scale – spreading huge R&D investment over hundreds of millions of units. Riding the consumer wave = high quality, high volume, low cost.  

This recipe means every car in the world can have L4 autonomous driving with the right software.  

Is Autonomy the Even Bigger Opportunity? 

Qualcomm has a huge $30B+ auto pipeline led by infotainment, but the bigger market might be in autonomy (the killer app for the car?).  

Five years ago, we bet on Qualcomm’s automotive capabilities even before they did, shoehorning a mobile chip into our autonomy stack. Today we are driving autonomously in an incredibly scalable form factor.  

I look forward to seeing what we do with them next.