Qualcomm to Acquire AutoTalks, a Chip Startup Enabling Vehicles to Detect Obstacles, in a Reported $350M to $400M Deal.
AutoTalks has raised $110M in funding and counts Toyota and Hyundai as investors. AutoTalks’ technology enables vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, allowing V2X-compatible cars to broadcast their locations wirelessly and activate automatic braking software if on a collision course. AutoTalks’ chips facilitate V2X implementation using two main technology standards, C-V2X and DSRC, making it easier for automakers to integrate V2X features into their vehicles.
The C-V2X technology, similar to LTE used by smartphones, enables vehicles to exchange location data through carrier networks or directly via radio signals when there’s no cellular connectivity. This feature allows vehicles to share safety data even in the absence of reliable wireless connectivity.
AutoTalks’ chips support both C-V2X and DSRC, the other networking technology, which uses Wi-Fi. DSRC allows vehicles to broadcast their location, direction, and speed to nearby cars up to 10 times per second.
AutoTalks claims that its chips can help cars detect obstacles even around corners. In the future, the company envisions vehicles using its technology not only to broadcast their location but also to share information about detected obstacles with other cars.
AutoTalks develops chips of varying complexity, including the SECTON3 modem chip which requires an external central processing unit, and the CRATON2 compute module that features a built-in CPU and a cybersecurity accelerator. AutoTalks’ technology is not limited to the automotive industry, as it also provides the ZooZ module for bicycles to enhance safety through V2X-enabled obstacle detection and communication with nearby vehicles.
Following the acquisition, Qualcomm plans to incorporate AutoTalks’ technology into its Snapdragon Digital Chassis portfolio, which includes modem chips for vehicle-to-network connections and processors for dashboard and infotainment systems.
Nakul Duggal, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm’s auto business, stated that Qualcomm has been investing in V2X research, development, and deployment since 2017 and anticipates that as the automotive market evolves, a separate V2X safety architecture will be required to improve road user safety. The company did not disclose specific details about its plans for AutoTalks’ technology in today’s acquisition announcement, but it is possible that Qualcomm intends to incorporate the technology into its vehicle modem chips, which frequently support multiple networking protocols. Qualcomm could outfit its vehicle modems with C-V2X and DSRC communication standards, the foundations of AutoTalks’ vehicle safety features. In the future, Qualcomm may be able to incorporate AutoTalks’ silicon into its Snapdragon Drive autonomous driving chips to help its automotive industry clients address safety concerns as they deploy fully autonomous vehicles.
Embedding a modem chip into the primary processor of a system is a common practice in the industry, such as with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Drive autonomous driving module for vehicles. The company’s high-end mobile processors come with a built-in 5G modem.
With its vast resources and extensive customer base in the automotive industry, Qualcomm’s acquisition of AutoTalks could potentially hasten the adoption of the C-V2X and DSRC networking standards that underpin the startup’s chips. These standards are currently used in a limited capacity, but Qualcomm’s influence could broaden their application as it seeks to monetize AutoTalks’ products.
This acquisition is Qualcomm’s second major move in the automotive sector since 2021, following its purchase of Arriver, a software developer for advanced driver assistance systems. Arriver was initially a joint venture between Qualcomm and Veoneer Inc., a supplier of vehicle sensors and software.