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BARCELONA (Pocket-lint) - For a number of years, companies like Qualcomm have been talking about how they want to be players in the automotive sector. As cars are becoming more technological - both in terms of the drive and the entertainment systems they offer - more power is needed.

Qualcomm has often talked about the evolution of its "digital chassis". In a world where the chassis is normally the steel heart of the car, you can think of these systems as the technology heart of the car.

Newly added from Qualcomm are cloud-as-a-service, integrated telematics, and upgrading the Wi-Fi to 6E in the latest update.

Thierry Cammal - director general at Renault's software labs - talking alongside Enrico Salvatori - president of Qualcomm Europe - at MWC 2022 explained that in the past cars used a lot of ECUs (electronic control units) for individual functions. 

The shift towards a digital chassis sees a shift from lots of ECUs, to fewer chips with a lot more power - which is where Qualcomm comes in.

This can essentially be divided into two sections - the hardware to control the driving of the car and the hardware to control the infotainment systems.

Pocket-lintQualcomm automotive photo 2

Cammal outlined that the change required a shift to a "software-defined approach," but that's seen a complete change of approach for modern cars, like the new electric Renault Megane or the Cadillac Lyriq.

Qualcomm can provide the hardware that covers many systems, including for those increasingly large displays for drivers and passengers, heads-up display systems including those offering augmented reality overlays, digital mirrors, multi-zone audio systems, sign detection and a whole lot more. 

Then there's the provision of a 5G connection to the outside world to connect the cloud to the car for things like traffic and in the future to support autonomous driving control, as well as providing a hotspot for passenger connection.

QualcommQualcomm automotive photo 3

Then you have the hardware for the actual driving functions, and things like the ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems).

"We, the automaker, need to control the software," says Cammal, before going on to say that software now makes up a lot of value of the car. 

Having a software-based approach, means that the manufacturer can add functions, refine systems and add value to cars beyond the point of sale. Cammal underlined that this could mean that the residual value of a car could be maintained for longer, because there's more freedom to keep cars updated. 

This is something that we've seen from Tesla, where software plays a huge part in the experience, and it's also a driving force behind using displays rather than buttons for everything: you can update a user interface remotely and change an experience or add in a service, which isn't possible where everything has a defined hardware button. 

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Qualcomm says that there's an order pipeline in excess of $13bn, so you can be expecting to hear a lot more about Qualcomm's involvement in automotive. You might not know that your car is running on Qualcomm hardware, but there's a good chance it could be.

Writing by Chris Hall.