Qualcomm gets the green light from California to test self-driving technology

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 450 chip promises to make budget smartphones better.
Qualcomm might not be a car company, but who cares? It can still help map out the future of car technology. The chip maker is the latest firm to receive permission from California to begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads — marking the latest milestone in the company’s quest to establish a presence in the autonomous car industry.

The Golden State’s Department of Motor Vehicles issued the permit on December 12, a spokesperson told CNBC, and authorized testing for a single vehicle and three drivers. And while it may not sound like much, Qualcomm appears confident that this is the first step toward a promising future.

“We certainly expect to be a key player in the autonomous space,” Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm’s vice president of product management for automotive, told CNBC. A few previously announced products might provide clues as to what Qualcomm is working on. In September, the company debuted the 9150 C-V2X chipset, which allows cars to “talk” to one another, as well as traffic infrastructure like stoplights. This chipset, Duggal noted, could work in tandem with other Qualcomm products meant to improve safety in cars.

The chips are already in trial in a number of Ford cars, which are driving about San Diego (where Qualcomm’s headquarters is located). And moving forward, Duggal said that further tests can be expected in Michigan as well as abroad, including China, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Qualcomm certainly isn’t the first non-automaker to receive a permit from California, which is widely known as the most friendly state when it comes to autonomous technology — thanks in no small part to an October self-driving car law making it easier to test vehicles with robots behind the wheel. Big car companies like BMW, Honda, and Volkswagen have received permission, and so too have companies in other fields. For example, Nvidia was granted its permit in 2016, whereas Samsung got the green light earlier in 2017. And Apple’s moves in the space (under the code name “Project Titan“) have been widely watched.

And it’s a worldwide phenomenon, as evidenced by the Martti, a self-driving car meant for Finland’s icy terrain.

While Qualcomm doesn’t appear to have plans to make its own cars to put on the road, its chips could soon be powering a whole host of mobility solutions. So keep an eye out for Qualcomm in the auto industry. It may just be a big player yet.

Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.

Waymo boosts robo-taxi plans with new service center in Arizona

Waymo has announced plans for a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that will help to service, maintain, and grow its fleet of autonomous Waymo One cars. The vehicles operate as part of the company's robo-taxi ridesharing service.

Nvidia’s new simulator brings virtual learning to autonomous vehicle developers

Nvidia introduced a simulator for testing autonomous vehicle technologies. Drive Constellation is a cloud-based platform technology vendors can use to validate systems efficiently, safely, and much faster than with vehicles on real roads.

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.

Formula 1 is putting data in the driver’s seat, and not all racers are happy

After a single weekend of racing, a Formula 1 pit crew typically pulls around 2TB of data from the car. Everything, from tire pressure to the temperature of the track, is recorded and analyzed in the name of boosting performance -- and not…
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.

The go kart-like Mini Cooper will soon add zero emissions to its resume

Mini is in the final stages of developing an electric version of the Cooper. The 2020 Cooper SE will receive powertrain components from the BMW i3, including a 181-horsepower electric motor and battery technology.
Product Review

By adding features, tech, and all-wheel drive, Mazda puts the 3 in a class of one

Since its introduction in 2003, Mazda’s compact Mazda3 has been a mainstay of the brand’s driver-oriented strategy. Mazda now plans to move upmarket, and the all-new 2019 Mazda3 offers some clues about how that’s going to work.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!