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Shifting into High Gear: Exploring Qualcomm’s Automotive Announcements with Nakul Duggal – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series
by Daniel Newman | January 28, 2021

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast – Interview Series I am joined by Nakul Duggal, SVP and General Manager of Automotive at Qualcomm. Nakul leads the team that manages Qualcomm’s automotive strategy, the semiconductor and software portfolio, and the ecosystem development which includes partner relationships. With the explosive growth of electronic and autonomous vehicles, this is a very exciting part of the company to be involved in right now.

Our conversation covered several aspects around the changes in vehicle technology we’ve seen in the last few decades and what we can expect in 2021 as well as some exciting Qualcomm announcements. Check out my quick review below:

Qualcomm’s Automotive Announcements

My conversation with Nakul explored the following:

  • A quick look into the expansion of the Snapdragon Ride Platform.
  • How Qualcomm has partnered with Amazon to bring Alexa technology into its Snapdragon Automotive Systems.
  • Why partnering with legacy automotive companies like GM makes a difference for Qualcomm.
  • What the Digital Cockpit experience will be like for consumers now that it is integrated with Alexa.
  • Bringing 5G into the automotive space through different aspects of the portfolio.

There is so much opportunity for growth in the automotive space and I am eager to see where these announcements from Qualcomm take us this year and beyond.

If you’d like to learn more about Qualcomm’s automotive announcements be sure to read the recap from my colleague Olivier Blanchard:
Qualcomm’s Automotive Sector Strategy Shifts Into High Gear This Week With A Bevy Of Announcements

You can grab the video of my interview with Nakul here:

Or listen to my interview with Nakul on your favorite streaming platform here:

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Transcript:

Daniel Newman: Hello and welcome everybody to The Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Daniel Newman, your host, principal analysts, founding partner at Futurum Research and excited about this Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series, where I will have Nakul Duggal from Qualcomm who leads the automotive business over there to come on and talk about a number of big announcements that the company had today. A really big topic, important topic. Everybody right now, there’s so much excitement around what’s going on in EVs, autonomous driving and Nakul is going to have so many great insights, so thrilled to bring them onto the show here. Before we do get started, I just want to remind everybody this show is for information and entertainment purposes only. So while we are talking to Qualcomm and leadership at Qualcomm, do not take anything we’re going to talk about here as an investment advice. We’re going to talk about tech. We’re going to talk about where things are going. This is for your information and entertainment. And without further ado, Nakul, welcome to the Futurum Tech Podcast.

Nakul Duggal: Thank you very much, Dan. Great to be with you.

Daniel Newman: Hey, it is great to have you here. We’ve had many of your colleagues on this show here, and we always enjoy talking to the leadership team over at Qualcomm. So big day for you today. Big Qualcomm automotive event. I followed it throughout the day and a lot of really exciting announcements. I don’t want to steal your thunder. Before I hop in though I got some questions for you, but I just want a quick introduction so that everybody knows you and a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Nakul Duggal: Around the automotive business. I’ve been there about 25 years and I think automotive is the place to be nowadays. So I think we’ve been doing a lot of great work with our partners worldwide. We made a number of announcements today and happy to be with you and get into the detail.

Daniel Newman: Great. I’m thrilled to have you here. So we’re seeing so much talk right now. If you turn on CNBC or any of the business news, EVs are huge. People are excited. Everything from connected and the data that the vehicles are putting off to. Charging to modernization, connectivity. Of course, we’ve seen our friends at Tesla just shoot to the moon over the last few months. These are all broader indicators of a trend, and of course we’ve got new administration coming in, going to be a lot more focused on sustainability and carbon neutrality and EVs and autonomous is going to be huge there. So you’ve got to be excited. What are some of the trends Nakul, that you’re really paying attention to right now in this space in automotive?

Nakul Duggal: You know, the way that we’ve broken this down for ourselves is more connected, more autonomous, more electrified. And if you take a big step back and map out everything that has happened over the last 15 to 20 years in tech, and you you’ve seen most recently Cloud becoming pervasive prior to that smartphones becoming pervasive. AI is now very democratic and connectivity of course, is what has allowed us to be able get to where we have come.

I think what is upon us really is that the auto industry, which has traditionally been a slow moving industry, has caught up to a lot of this change and is reinventing itself completely. And I don’t think it is just the automotive industry, it’s actually the transportation business as a whole. So because the auto industry and transportation as a whole are so foundational to everything that we do to the way we live, the way we travel, to the way we, today, delivery services right hailing, clearly the amount of change going on represents a huge opportunity for so many different industries. That I think is what is upon us. We are playing our part in it and we are finding that the opportunity is much bigger than just participation in the Silicon space. There is a lot to go do, and that’s why this is a very active space for us. That’s why we made a lot of announcements today.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, there are a lot of announcements. We’ll get to that in a minute. I will say Nakul, I still remember a few years back at Mobile World Congress listening to Cristiano, talking about the opportunity, the pipeline in automotive. I recently wrote a piece on MarketWatch where I was trying to explain to the world that Qualcomm is so much more of a company than what it tends to get recognized for. It’s in so many different things and people tend to think of it as the company that makes chips for handsets. If they know the brand at all. And it’s one of the most important players in a global innovation ecosystem and the diversification, especially in your area though, in automotive has been material and it’s something that people really are paying attention to.

Silicon is eating the world and the contribution of Silicon makers to the changing shape of automotive is going to be massive. And if you miss that, you’re missing one of the biggest opportunities in this space. You know, like I said, you had a big day, I went through your press kit. I read your announcements. I watched some of your videos. There was a ton to cover here. So I’ll start with the softball question. Generally speaking of all of the announcements you had today, what are some of the ones that you thought were the biggest and most exciting that everyone should know about?

Nakul Duggal: I think there were a number of them because we are participating now in so many different areas. I think the biggest one maybe to get started, we’ve been working with General Motors for a long time. GM has been a key partner of ours for over 20 years. We started off with OnStar with them back in 2002. And the partnership today was we really working with them across the board. ADAS, Autonomous, Digital Cockpit, Telematics, Cellular V2X in China. The kitchen sink, each of these engagements are actually quite independent. They have all started at independent points in time. They’re all the independent teams at GM. So the way to think about it is our approach to the industry, to the auto industry, to our customers is one where we will sit side by side to solve problems from the vantage point of the automaker.

And that is the big difference in the approach that we have taken where we have the foundational technology, but the application of that technology in the context of where the car is headed is the approach that we have made a shift around and GM is one of our key partners. They have nearly been working with us across all of these areas. But I think the other area that I am quite proud of is the partners that we have. Automotive interestingly and not surprisingly perhaps is, not like the consumer business where it moves much faster. You have to be able to get a lot of experience in the products that you build. Quality requirements are very different from what you see in other markets. And you need to have a certain level of acceptance from the automotive ecosystem. And we build that over the last 10 years. We’ve invested in that space heavily and you saw the number of partners that we have across many different domains.

We announced an expansion of our Snapdragon Ride Platform, where we’ve now finalized our partnerships with Veoneer. They formed a new entity called Arriver that will be building vision perception stacks, drive policy stacks. We will be optimizing the Valeo’s parking automated solution. Sewing machines shall be monitoring on the Snapdragon Ride. So that is once again, recognizing the fact that automakers are interested in looking at the solution from an application perspective and then integrating that at the vehicle level. So that’s the plane at which we are operating. And then I think the last one that was interesting was the one with Amazon to bring the Alexa customer assistant into a Digital Cockpit. Now, our approach on the cockpit is that we do a lot of software scaffolding, as I like to call it, on top of our hardware. So we don’t just provide you Silicon for you to be able to go build software on top, we provide a lot of different embers on top.

And a number of these over a period of time have essentially been with very key software partners, very key ecosystem partners. So in this case, we have been planning to integrate Alexa deeply into the DSP and bring all of the differentiations that the Snapdragon DSP has into the Alexa environment, make it simpler for automakers until we’ll able to deploy the technology.

Daniel Newman: You and I clearly are reading from the same playbook Nakul, because I went through all the announcements and I wrote up what are the things I want to hit you a little bit deeper on. You picked those as your big time announcement. So you covered them well, but I think I want to ask you to lean a little bit deeper into this. GM, for instance, I mean talk about legacy in the automotive business, but also talk about the hyper opposite of a high tech company. It’s seen as a very old legacy industrial manufacturer of automotive.

Now we know you and I as tech people, that there’s tons of technology behind them, but really they’ve come to you. As I read it, the company has come to Qualcomm to modernize. It’s come to Qualcomm to be able to put the technology that you’re building inside of its newest and next generation vehicles to be able to compete, I mentioned Tesla to 50 other EV companies coming to market and then of course, legacy competitors, Ford and BMW. And I know many of these are your partners. I know you guys work with many of these companies, but talk that. Talk about how you partner with a company like GM or across the board, the OEMs, why is it this partnership so important? Why is Qualcomm so important to these companies?

Nakul Duggal: Well, one thing that is fascinating because this is the typical innovator’s dilemma problem for really every massive company. And most companies in automotive that matter are massive. It is really kudos to the executive teams of these automakers because the transformation upon them is to really change the culture of the company, is to be able to move from what you’ve been good at for decades and be able to develop new skillsets. And the way that our approach has worked with companies like GM and many others is really the trusted partner approach. It is a technology relationship. It is set in being able to take feedback, make changes to the way that we innovate, the way that we build our products, connect them to the road map that our automaker partners are looking for and learn together. We don’t get everything perfect right away but if you think about it over a longer period of time, we do start to make those shifts.

And because we are now engaged across so many different areas, and these are all areas that are actually fairly transformational to what the next generation car is going to look like, there is a lot of learning, not just for us and automaker partners, but the broader ecosystem that exists around us. So, partners in the hardware space, in the analog space, in the memory space, in the software space, all of these partners are coming together to plan for what do we need to do right next time so that we keep making these continuous improvements. And that is only possible if there is a very open, transparent relationship. And it’s really not two companies, it’s actually a multiple number of companies that come together to go make this happen.

Daniel Newman: I was reading a lot of this throughout CES and I know Qualcomm chose to have this event as more of its moment than a virtual CES. And I think any company right now could argue there’s many ways to split the atom. Essentially it gave you an opportunity to focus on a lot of announcements and not get lost in the large virtual experience. But what I did notice was these partnerships. And you mentioned there’s so many partnerships between OEMs and chip makers, but not only that you have Cloud providers coming to make an edge in data services. And also by the way, I even saw semiconductor companies collaborating, which is kind of crazy, but it’s not uncommon for Qualcomm to be one of maybe two or three semiconductor companies that are working within the overall ecosystem of a different vehicle manufacturing. And I am a high tide rises all boats kind of guy so I think there’s a lot of great things inside of that.

Which makes me think of partnerships. Again, you talked about OEM and the other partnership that you mentioned being Amazon. I mean, Amazon is Full Court Press and AI company is trying to basically involve itself in our lives. Vehicle security was something that recently focused on, of course Alexa in our homes, it’s got the giant Cloud business AWS, but it sounds like once again, Qualcomm has turned to a high demand product that consumers tend to love and interact with every day and you’re putting it in a vehicle. So you kind of touched on that, but what does this really mean? So what does the experience look like for someone using a Snapdragon supported vehicle with Amazon look like?

Nakul Duggal: We’ve been investing in our Digital Cockpit business for a number of years. We’ve had a lot of success in that business. We have over 20 automakers now on our cockpit platform. And one of the big reasons for the success is that we are able to provide very comprehensive and very complete solutions that allow what automakers and tier ones to accelerate the time tomorrow. Now with Alexa’s focus on customers’ assistance to be able to bring personalization, branding, skills integration, it’s pretty clear that there is a large part of the market that is working more and more with Alexa’s innovation and expertise. And so the path we decided with the Alexa and Amazon team was to deeply integrate the voice assistant into the Snapdragon corporate platform. So we do that for Gen3 and the upcoming Gen4 platforms. Will integrate them into our audio DSPs, where we have a lot of built-in audio differentiators, echo cancellation, my suppression, et cetera.

And that becomes part and parcel of the pre integration that we provide to our customers. We will then allow through our [inaudible] cloud capabilities, the activation or deactivation of a feature like this from the cloud. So it is something that can be part of every vehicle, every platform that we sell and it can be activated by Amazon or by the automaker as a the need may arise. So the idea is to be able to make it very pervasive, make it very optimized, not run it on the CPU where you are ending up taking cycles that could be used for other things and really get to a much more superior experience.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. So we only have a couple of minutes. Really appreciate you taking the time I’m sure you’ve been doing press all day. As an analyst we like to try to get a little deeper and crossed over just beyond reporting the news. So thanks for getting kind of under the hood for me, pun intended. So last quick question, I noticed a lot of 5G talk. 5G has not just for hands that a lot of people kind of… We’ve talked about fixed wireless, which is something Qualcomm focused on, but 5G and vehicles have a big relationship forming. Just talk a little bit about how Qualcomm’s sees that and then I’ll let you get back to your day full of events here Nakul.

Nakul Duggal: Yeah, sure. So, we’ve been doing Telematics in the car for almost 20 years. We have 150 million cars on the road with our modems. 5G has moved much faster than any previous wireless generation, as you know. And we are now seeing every automaker, not only plan for the connected car, but plan for 5G connected car. So that is upon us just because of the pace at which the transformation in the auto industry is going on. The other piece that I would mention is, we Cellular V2X as a vehicle focused wireless technology for safety vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure communications. And this was introduced as a brand new technology only in 2016, so not that long ago. We are happy to share we are not commercialized in China. So GM announced that they have launched C-V2X in Buick in China.

We have a number of other Chinese OEMs that we’ve been working with Hun Chi, NIO, Great Wall and many others who’ve started to deploy Cellular V2X in China. So we see wireless becoming a very large part of how automakers think about differentiation and not just wireless connectivity between the car and the Cloud, but also the immediate environment, cars to cars, cars to roadside infrastructure. There are so many different aspects of the portfolio that are at play at the same time. Really a very thrilling time to be a part of the auto industry for us.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. And what a great way to kind of wrap things up there. We’re seeing it all come together. Connect the vehicle to everything, to acts, right? And that’s the big thing. Yes to Cloud, yes to vehicle, yes to cities and smart infrastructure, but really the future is about connecting to everything. Really big day for the company. And I just want to say, Nakul, thank you so much for spending a little time here with me on The Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series. It’s great to hear from you all of the thinking of his big day of announcements.

And unfortunately there’s probably another hour we could go to really get into all of this stuff, but hopefully that was a good intro to everybody and it’ll get them reading and looking at all the things Qualcomm did today.

Nakul Duggal: Thank you, Dan. Thanks for having me on.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. So I’m going to go ahead and wrap things up here for everybody. Go ahead and check out the show notes below. We have a full research note at Futurum and we’re going to dig in deep to all of the things Nakul talked about. It was a great episode, ton of insights. I Hope I can get them back here on the show soon because I’d like to spend another 20 or 30 minutes digging into all these different announcements, but also just the future of the connected vehicles, the automotive industry as a whole. But for this episode of The Futurum Tech Podcast, Interview Series, I got to wrap up and call it a day. Thanks again for stopping by. Hit that subscribe button, join us. Feel free to keep in touch with us on Twitter or in YouTube in the comments we’re active, we’ll be there. Thanks Qualcomm for making this possible and for joining us today for this show though, it’s time to go, say goodbye. We’ll see you later.

 

About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio