The Qualcomm Snapdragon Ride is a car-based computer system that can outfit a vehicle with anything between Level 1 (parking assistance) and Level 5 (no human driver whatsoever) autonomy. At present, Qualcomm is working with almost every major auto manufacturer to bring these systems into consumer cars within the next few years.
To learn how Snapdragon Ride works, I met with Qualcomm at CES 2020. The company briefed me on the technology, then gave me a firsthand demo of how the system might work in practice. We piled into a Qualcomm-modified Lincoln MKZ sedan, then took a 20-minute trip on the highway where the car itself did all the driving. From entry, to merging, to lane changes, to speed adjustments, to exiting again, the Snapdragon Ride proved itself to be a capable highway driver.
In order to help me understood how Snapdragon Ride works, Qualcomm walked me through its components, step by step. The system requires dozens of data inputs, which makes sense when you consider just how many variables are out there on a crowded highway. The Snapdragon Ride gathers information from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), Controller Area Network (CAN) and similar systems.
Then, the system combines these numbers with data gathered directly from the car. Our MKZ had eight cameras and six radars at key locations: the hood, the trunk, the side-view mirrors, the roof and so forth. The Snapdragon Ride downloads an HD map of your route, then uses the data gathered to plan out the car’s trajectory, latitude/longitude locations, steering, braking, throttling and so forth. Using the Snapdragon Ride’s powerful processor, the system can predict what other cars on the road will do in the near future by mapping out probable trajectories for every vehicle within camera range.
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