Qualcomm Targets the Center Console of Connected Cars

By James Morra, Contributing Editor

Qualcomm is trying to buy NXP Semiconductors, the largest supplier of automotive chips, to tow it out of the smartphone business and into faster growing markets. But while it attempts to quell grumblings from shareholders and regulators, Qualcomm is already getting orders for chips that can be used in the infotainment systems of cars.

Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president and the former head of its research division, pointed out the company’s triumphs at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He said that the company had taken $3 billion worth of orders for automotive chips that can be used either to connect cars wirelessly or power software on the car’s center console.

Qualcomm also announced that it is supplying chips that support navigation as well as music and video streaming on displays inside the latest Honda Accord. The technology could, for example, provide drivers with turn-by-turn directions, while allowing passengers in the front seat to streams music from the internet or reply to a text using the dashboard display.

The company supplied silicon to 25 car companies over the last year, while 12 companies have bought its Snapdragon Automotive products, which share the same name as its line of smartphone processors. Other new customers for its infotainment chips are Jaguar Land Rover and the Chinese electric car manufacturer BYD Auto.

Most of the revenue from Qualcomm’s fledgling business likely stems from orders of wireless modems for connecting cars to 3G and 4G technology. The company is also supplying cellular vehicle-to-everything technology companies like Ford, enabling vehicles to talk with each other directly and communicate with the cloud to enable software and firmware updates.

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