Upping Its Automotive Game, Qualcomm to Buy Israeli Chipmaker Autotalks
Qualcomm has announced plans to acquire Autotalks, an Israeli chipmaker specializing in V2X hardware and software solutions.
Qualcomm is in the final stages of its acquisition of Autotalks, an Israeli fabless semiconductor company specializing in vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity technology. The company has stated that this will acquisition will accelerate its V2X offerings within its Snapdragon Digital Chassis portfolio of automotive technologies.
Already in the portfolio are Snapdragon Auto Connectivity, which uses 5G, C-V2X, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, MF-GNSS, and DSDSA for infotainment and enhanced safety; the Snapdragon Cockpit Platform, which includes E-mirrors, 3D navigation, natural language processing, intelligent user interfaces, and streaming multimedia; Snapdragon Car-to-Cloud, which allows over-the-air feature upgrades, global connectivity, and analytics for user personalization; and the Snapdragon Ride Platform, which provides driver-assistance systems and automated driving.
Autotalks' V2X hardware can brake cars when it senses an imminent collision. Screenshot courtesy of Autotalks
Autotalks was founded in 2008 and since then has raised over $100 million in series D and corporate funding and secured multiple patents. The company set out with a vision to provide “life saving connectivity” between vehicles on the road and eliminate collisions by “leading the corporate safety revolution.”
Autotalks has offices across North America, in Europe (Germany, France), and in East Asia (China, Japan, and South Korea). The company estimates that by 2025 there will be 35.1 million cars equipped with V2X technology.
What Is V2X?
The ”everything” in V2X is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), vehicle-to-bike (V2B), vehicle-to-motorcycle (V2M), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P). V2X allows anything on roadways to communicate and coordinate together, reporting speed, position, and status to other nearby V2X systems. This could help with traffic management, avoid collisions, and help in “failure-to-see” situations such as blind spots or blind corners. More advanced applications could use V2X as complementary sensing devices, assisting in driving or automating driving scenarios alongside LiDAR or visual sensing.
Diagram of V2X roadside units (RSUs). Image courtesy of Autotalks
Two underlying wireless technologies currently make V2X possible. The first is dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), and the other is the 5G-based cellular V2X (C-V2X).
DSRC primarily supports communication and data exchange between vehicles and nearby infrastructure using the 5.9 GHz band and is based on Wi-Fi (802.11p) technology. The FCC originally reserved this entire 75 MHz spectrum (5.850–5.925 GHz) for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) such as DSRC. However, in 2020, a modification was proposed to split the band up, with the 5.895–5.925 GHz spectrum still reserved for ITS.
DSRC requires line-of-sight communications with a max range of approximately 0.6 miles. This short-range communication is ideal for environments like roadways and can help avoid collisions or respond to signs quickly due to low latency.
C-V2X, on the other hand, has a greater range and two operational modes. The first mode is direct communication, which acts very similarly to DSRC and uses the same frequency band with the same max range and line-of-sight constraint. However, in networked mode, C-V2X can also take advantage of cellular networks such as 4G and 5G. In this case, the range is related to the size of the network it is connected to. However, Autotalk reports the range of C-V2X to be between 0.12–0.37 miles depending on the environment.
The Autotalks portfolio includes security, communications, and fully integrated options. Below are some of the company's key V2X hardware that may have attracted Qualcomm to this acquisition.
Secton and Secton 3 for Security
Secton is an add-on chip that provides secure V2X communication using DSRC, C-V2X, and IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz with up to 433 Mbps).
Secton chip. Image used courtesy of Autotalks
- Ultra-low latency V2X hardware security module (eHSM)
- Crypto-agile hardware verification engines
- AEC Q-100 grade 2, rated for -40℃ to +105℃ ambient operation temperatures
- USB 2.0 interfacing
- QNX and Linux host drivers
Secton3 is a more advanced flavor designed for Day 1 and Day 2 (the phases of V2X rollout) applications. It is backward compatible with the first-generation Secton chip and similarly acts as an add-on for a host CPU. Additionally, Secton3 is:
- Capable of ISO262626 ASIL-B certification for automatic braking
- Designed to operate across the globe by meeting different protocols and requirements for use in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and China
Craton2, Pluton2, and Tekton3 for Communications
Craton2 appears similar to Secton, although it is more of a complete V2X device featuring an integrated dual-core Arm Cortex A7 CPU. It additionally features:
- Optional secure CAN MCU with CAN FD and FlexRay interfacing
- USB 2.0 and Ethernet 10/100/1000 AVB interfaces
- Global operability using security standards for the U.S., Germany, and China
Pluton2 RFIC is an RF receiver supporting C-V2X, including features like:
- Dual-channel 5.15–5.93 GHz
- Single channel 2.4 GHz
- Concurrent 802.11p and 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WLAN operations
Tekton3 focuses more on DSRC and DSRC+, as well as LTE-V2X for Day 1 and Day 2 applications. Other features include:
- Support for cooperative perception among vehicles to increase road awareness
- ISO262626 ASIL-B certification for automatic braking
ZooZ for Micro-mobility
ZooZ is a small V2X-capable device designed to be installed on the handlebar of bikes. ZooZ will notify V2X-equipped vehicles about the presence of cyclists and notify the cyclist when a V2X-equipped vehicle is getting dangerously close to them.
The ZooZ device. Image used courtesy of Autotalks
The Autotalks portfolio appears to align well with Qualcomm’s objectives in the automotive market, and it will be interesting to see if V2X becomes the de facto standard to support road safety in the coming years.