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Qualcomm CEO Wants to Make Eyes for Driverless Cars

Making the cellular "booga booga" easy.

Asa Mathat

If cars are really going to drive themselves one day, the eyes they use to see the road may come from Qualcomm.

That at least is one of the hopes expressed by Steve Mollenkopf, the CEO of the wireless chipmaker Qualcomm. In an interview with Kara Swisher at the Code Conference today, Mollenkopf said the company’s dominance of the market for chips that go into smartphones and tablets can lead to applications for driverless cars.

One of them, he said, is computer vision. “Everyone wants to emulate what you can see in your eye,” he said. “The driverless car requires computer vision, and where that’s being developed more than anywhere is on the phone. … On the car, having computer vision enables things like parking and safety features.”

Also on the subject of cars, Qualcomm is working on technology that would connect cars to each other. “The amount of data that will be taken off driverless cars will be interesting from a perspective of consumer services,” he said. That may require peer-to-peer connections between individual cars on the road sharing information about the road with each other.

Qualcomm has had much of the high-end smartphone market to itself, at least for devices running on high-speed LTE networks. But as new technologies like wearables and in-car technologies have sought to connect to wireless phone networks, companies developing on them naturally reach out to Qualcomm. “If you look worldwide, there is a lot of innovation occurring at the business-model level,” Mollenkopf said. “And so we tend to abstract a lot of the cellular booga booga and make it easy for people to get onto cellular networks.”

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