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Qualcomm aims new Snapdragon 820A SoC at smart cars

Jan 7, 2016 — by Eric Brown 1,673 views

Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 820A, a version of its 64-bit Snapdragon 820 SoC targeting automotive applications including IVI and ADAS.

Nvidia and Qualcomm showed off new automotive platforms at CES that demonstrate the power of their advanced GPUs to achieve sophisticated computer vision capabilities. Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 platform is aimed at self-driving cars, and updates the Tegra-based Drive PX automotive board with 16nm Tegras that haven’t even been announced yet. Here, we look at Qualcomm’s Linux- and Android-ready Snapdragon 820A, an automotive spin on its quad-core 820 SoC designed for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

Augmented reality head-up display enabled by the Snapdragon 820A
(click image to enlarge)

The Snapdragon 820A follows Qualcomm’s previous automotive system-on-chip, called the Snapdragon 602a, which the company now says will be used in Audi’s 2017 vehicles. The 820A is based closely on the new Snapdragon 820, a 14nm SoC with four Cortex-A72-like “Kyro” cores, two of which are clocked to 2.2GHz. It also includes Qualcomm’s 624MHz Adreno GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP, and a new 14-bit Spectra image signal processor (ISP).

One option that is also available on the 820A is Qualcomm X12 LTE chip, which supports Cat 12/13 speeds of up to 600Mbps down and 150Mbps up. The X12 will enable automotive systems to stream HD movies, provide a WiFi hotspot supporting 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, and connect multiple mobile devices inside the car, says Qualcomm.


The X12 is also said to support 802.11p DSRC for V2X (Vehicle to Vehicle/Infrastructure/Pedestrian) communications. Qualcomm is working with the 3GPP mobile broadband standards organization on V2X specifications related to LTE.

What’s new and different compared to the Snapdragon 820 is a bit unclear at this point, but Qualcomm says it is providing its Zeroth initiative deep learning machine intelligence SDK to 820A automotive partners for ADAS and other advanced functions. Zeroth is sort of a rough equivalent to Nvidia’s DIGITS, helping to tap the computer vision capabilities within GPUs.

Qualcomm also notes the 820A’s sensor integration, which provides cognitive awareness and vehicle self-diagnostics for ADAS. Also available are GNSS and dead reckoning technologies.

Stated Qualcomm: “By integrating advanced camera and sensor processing, the 820A supports critical always-on warnings and emergency services, extends standard cameras to Intelligent Cameras, and supports parking assist periphery vision features using surround view cameras.”

Aisin AW will be among the first to use the Snapdragon 820A in an upcoming IVI system, says Qualcomm. Earlier this week, the company was one of several automotive component manufacturers that said it would use the Linux Foundation’s new Automotive Grade Linux Unified Code Base IVI stack in an upcoming design.

Other testimonials with less concrete promises come from AGL member Misubishi Electric, as well as Visteon and AT&T, which hinted it would use the 820A on its LTE-focused AT&T Drive platform. First automotive samples of the 820A are expected later this quarter, supporting Android, Linux, and QNX platforms.

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