Qualcomm Acquires Testing Permit for Driverless Cars in California

Qualcomm Acquires Testing Permit for Driverless Cars in California

Author: Michael Cheng   

One of the largest semiconductor and telecommunication brands in the world is moving forward with the testing of driverless cars in the US. Earlier this month, Qualcomm received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which will be used to facilitate trials in the area.

The permit is valid for one autonomous vehicle and three registered drivers, who will oversee rides and gather feedback during operation. So far, the tech giant plans to deploy trials in San Diego using customized Ford units. Outside of California, Qualcomm is conducting similar tests in Michigan, China, Germany, Italy and Japan.

"We certainly expect to be a key player in the autonomous space," said Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm's vice president of product management for automotive, in an interview with CNBC.

Conducting Trials in California

At the moment, Qualcomm is sharing the state with a handful of developers and startups in the sector, including NVIDIA, Uber, Samsung and Tesla. San Diego is one of ten official proving grounds for autonomous vehicles. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) included the location in its announcement at the beginning of the year.

Qualcomm has been planning deployment and testing in San Diego ever since the area was verified as an official proving ground, according to Bill Valle, city engineer at Chula Vista. Prior to the application for the permit, the company tested its wireless communication systems in the location. Specifically, communication protocols between vehicles (not vehicle to infrastructure [V2I]) will be the focus of the upcoming trials.

In 2018, the University of San Diego will also be conducting tests on driverless cars. The campus will receive an autonomous vehicle to facilitate mail deliveries. After mastering such tasks, the unit may move on to complete more complicated work, such as shuttling students around the school.

New updates to laws surrounding the testing of driverless cars in the state of California have made compliance less stringent. In October, local officials made it possible for approved automakers and tech companies to deploy autonomous vehicles in testing sites without human drivers (in the driver seat).

This ruling, along with many other revisions to existing guidelines, will roll out in June 2018. It is important to consider that such recommendations do not include commercial units weighing more than 10,000 lbs.

9150 C-V2X Chipset

Qualcomm will likely be testing its cutting-edge 9150 C-V2X chipsets at San Diego. The self-driving parts are designed for both vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, such as traffic lights and beacons.

"The introduction of the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset builds on our leadership in automotive technologies, demonstrating our continued commitment to design and offer advanced solutions for safe, connected and increasingly autonomous vehicles," explained Duggal.

Many analysts view Qualcomm's testing plans in California as timely and competitive. The company's acquisition deal with NXP, which is a critical part of its future role in the automotive space, is not yet closed. Some groups, including Elliot Management, believe Qualcomm may be required to pay up to 20 percent more for the business. 

Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
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