GM and Qualcomm Partner on Next-gen ADAS

The collaboration brings the first dedicated Snapdragon system-on-chip for Ultra Cruise data processing.

The Snapdragon aluminum housing for the GM Ultra Cruise compute is finned extensively internally to aid heat dissipation. (GM)

Ultra Cruise, General Motors’s next generation of hands-free ‘Super Cruise’ ADAS technology, will be powered by a scalable compute architecture featuring a system-on-chip (SoC) design developed by U.S. semiconductor company Qualcomm Technologies Inc. As announced by the two companies January 6, GM will be the first automotive OEM to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Ride platform for ADAS use. The new architecture features a 5-nanometer Snapdragon SA8540P SoC and SA9000P artificial-intelligence accelerator, which Qualcomm claims is “industry leading.”

SoC technology integrates, on a single microchip, all or most components of a computer, including a CPU (central processing unit), input/output (I/O) ports and secondary storage, with other components including radio modems and a graphics processing unit (GPU). Ultra Cruise’s compute, described by GM as approximately the size of two laptops stacked together, will be available in 2023 on vehicles including the Cadillac Celestiq, a super-premium electric sedan using GM’s BEV3 platform and expected to enter the market at more than $100,000.

In that vehicle, two Snapdragon-based processors, including high-performance sensor interfaces, memory bandwidth and the Ultra Cruise software stack, will provide the necessary bandwidth for vehicle sensing, mapping, localization, and driver monitoring, according to the companies. With the Qualcomm technology, Ultra Cruise will have the capability to execute hands-free driving “in 95% of all driving scenarios,” GM promises.

Noted Ken Morris, GM VP of electric, autonomous and fuel cell vehicle programs, “Despite its relatively small size, Ultra Cruise’s compute will have the processing capability of several hundred personal computers. It will take qualities that have distinguished GM’s advanced driver-assist systems since 2017 to the next level with door-to-door hands-free driving.”

The Ultra Cruise compute is comprised of two Snapdragon SA8540P SoCs and one SA9000P AI accelerator to deliver key low-latency control functions on 16-core CPUs and high-performance AI compute of more than 300 Tera Operations per second for camera, radar and lidar processing. The Snapdragon SoCs are designed with 5nm process technology, enabling “superior performance and power efficiency,” Qualcomm said in a release.

The compute, along with Snapdragon Ride SoCs, includes an Infineon Aurix TC397 processor for system safety integrity. The Aurix TC397 is categorized ASIL-D – the highest Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL). To minimize complexity within the compute and reduce mass, GM engineers opted for an air-cooled instead of liquid-cooled thermal-management system. The Ultra Cruise compute also will have the capability to evolve over time by leveraging Snapdragon Ride’s SoCs performance and high-speed interfaces for future expansion, the companies said. It will also enable over-the-air (OTA) updates through GM’s new Ultifi software platform and Vehicle Intelligence Platform electrical architecture.

The new system will help power GM-developed ADAS software and features going forward. (Ultra Cruise currently is considered an SAE Level 2 ADAS.). GM noted that these capabilities were developed in-house at the automaker’s engineering facilities in Israel, the U.S., Ireland and Canada. “We are very proud of our collaboration with General Motors on one of the industry’s first uses of our Snapdragon SoCs in an automated driving system,” said Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm’s senior VP, Automotive. “Ultra Cruise powered by Snapdragon Ride on Cadillac vehicles will be an experiential and technological leap forward for the industry.”

At CES 2022, Qualcomm also announced that BMW and Renault will adopt the Snapdragon Ride platform by 2025.