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Qualcomm Is Poised to Dominate EVs Before Apple Gets a Chance

Qualcomm Is Poised to Dominate EVs Before Apple Gets a Chance

Perhaps crucially, Qualcomm also says its digital chassis allows automakers to “own the in-vehicle experience… [and] to extend our brand and bring engaging interactions with consumers into the vehicle.” This will be especially welcomed by manufacturers following the announcement last June of Apple’s next-generation multi-screen CarPlay, which is unlikely to be anywhere near as collaborative as Qualcomm’s offering. Indeed, when CarPlay 2 was announced, WIRED reached out to a number of major automakers for comment on the Cupertino system, only to find that the companies seemed clueless about the news, and the potential impact on their dominance of their own car UIs, was coming.

The digital chassis system is designed to work in all regions and in all types of vehicles, and Qualcomm says it hopes the chassis will “inspire new business models for automakers” that go beyond simply selling and maintaining cars.

If you thought paying for heated seats was bad…

In addition to in-car gaming, these new business models will also involve drivers being asked to pay to unlock features already installed in their vehicle. BMW caused controversy when it suggested that the heated seats already installed in the car would require a subscription to work. Mercedes will soon ask drivers to pay $1,200 to unlock more performance, hidden behind a paywall written into their EV’s code. The latest Polestar 2 model can be made more powerful by purchasing the Performance Pack, which comes via a software update, keyless.

Beyond software and connectivity, tech companies can help automakers—especially startups—when it comes to mass production. Such cooperation can be found with Fisker and Foxconn. The first is a Californian EV startup headed by former Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker, and the second is a Taiwanese company best known for assembling the iPhone. The two plan to jointly develop a roughly $30,000 EV that should go into production at the Ohio facility in 2024.

Fisker said in 2021 that Foxconn will help with product development, procurement and manufacturing, and that the partnership will allow his company to deliver products “at a price point that really opens up electric mobility to the mass market.”

Not wanting to put all its automotive eggs in one basket, Foxconn is also involved in a joint venture with Chinese auto giant Geely, parent of Volvo, Polestar and Lotus among others. Similarly, Pegatron, the other Taiwanese firm in charge of assembling the iPhone, is now also a manufacturing partner of Tesla.

Finding a technology partner could soon be paramount for car brands that have yet to fully embrace advanced infotainment, driver assistance and connectivity systems. Lei Zhou, a partner at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting, told WIRED that it’s “highly likely” that automakers that go it alone with their technology are at risk of being left behind.

Zhou added: “If conventional OEMs develop related technologies with their current capabilities, they could find themselves left behind by new EV manufacturers with IT backgrounds or OEMs that have teamed up with powerful technology partners…significant value can be generate by collaborating with different players, including technology and business fields.”

And what does Apple intend?

The opposite is also true, where tech companies looking to develop their first car require the help of automakers with production experience.

Tyson Jominy, vice president of automotive consulting at JD Power, told WIRED: “Tesla, Rivian, Dyson, Lucid and others have done really well with the car design process. But when you get down to the brass steps of building a car, it’s very difficult. When a lot of startups run into problems, it is [because] mass producing cars on a large scale is difficult. So the partnership makes sense.”

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