Why BMW is tapping Qualcomm to supply chips for the German automaker’s self-driving cars


Qualcomm Inc on Tuesday said that German automaker BMW will use its chips in its next-generation driver-assistance and self-driving systems.

San Diego-based Qualcomm is the world’s biggest supplier of chips for mobile phones but has been diversifying its business, with more than a third of its chip sales coming from sources other than handsets.

Qualcomm’s announcement of the BMW win came before an investor presentation where it was expected to give new details about its strategy.

A spokesperson for BMW said the new chips would be used for its ‘Neue Klasse’ series of electric vehicles set to begin production in 2025.

Automotive chips are a key growth area for Qualcomm, which supplies chips for infotainment systems to companies such as General Motors. But the company has also been working to challenge its chip industry rivals Nvidia Corp and Intel Corp in supplying the chips powering driver-assistance computers for tasks such as automated lane-keeping and eventual self-driving systems.

Qualcomm and BMW will use a dedicated Qualcomm computer vision processing chip to analyze data from front-, rear- and surround-view cameras. BMW will also use a Qualcomm central computing chip and another set of Qualcomm chips to help the car communicate with cloud computing data centers.

An existing partnership between BMW and Intel’s Mobileye self-driving technology unit would continue, BMW said, although plans to release an autonomous vehicle in 2021 have not materialized.

A 7 Series full-size sedan featuring Intel’s Level 3 autonomous driving technology, where cars can drive themselves under limited conditions but still require a driver, is due for release next year.

The two companies did not say how much of the BMW group’s line-up the Qualcomm deal would cover.



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