Qualcomm tricks out Cadillac with Android 5.0

Qualcomm shows how Android can make cars cooler and safer

Car buyers look for the best deals, not the best in-vehicle operating systems. At CES, though, show goers will be able to view a concept Cadillac car loaded with Android 5.0 and technological bells and whistles that could make driving safer and more fun.

Chip maker Qualcomm is showing a concept car based on a 2015 Cadillac XTS and offering technologies drawn from smartphones, tablets and even gaming consoles. The Android-based car will have high-resolution displays for infotainment; LTE connectivity to stream music, sports and video; and gesture and voice recognition so the in-car computer system can recognize verbal or visual commands.

The car will also have safety features to detect pedestrians in order to avoid collision, said Derek Aberle, Qualcomm's president, during a press conference at International CES on Monday.

Driving features in the car include navigation and additional safety features such as lane detection and technologies that can detect driver distraction.

Other technologies tap into the Internet of things to link up the car with home appliances. In the future, the technology will allow drivers or passengers to witch on a light at home, or open a garage door via in-car commands. This would be made possible by Qualcomm's AllJoyn technology, which provides an open-source platform for electronics to identify and communicate with each other.

The car will be demonstrated on the CES show floor, open on Tuesday. It's a prototype and a showcase for what future cars will look like.

CES has become a showcase for the latest in-car technologies. BMW is showing a self-parking car, Volvo has developed helmet technology to reduce collisions with bicycles, and Hyundai is removing CD players and instead using Apple's CarPlay or Google's Android Auto to access music and directions from mobile devices. Nvidia shared details about its Tegra X1 chip for vehicles, which will be able to read signs and automatically make driving decisions based on certain road situations.

The Cadillac concept car is a significant demonstration for Google, which is trying to push Android system into the automotive market. Android Auto links mobile devices to in-car navigation and entertainment systems, and judging from early interest from car makers, the software is likely to appear in most major brand-name cars.

A Qualcomm concept car at the show, based on the 2015 Maserati Quattroporte GTS, is using the QNX operating system. The car itself is pretty exciting, but the technology built in isn't as interesting as what's appearing in the Cadillac concept car. It will have entertainment systems, gesture recognition features and interactive displays.

The concept car will have circuitry from Qualcomm, which has built a reputation around mobile chips but wants a piece of the automotive market. Qualcomm's got a long way to go to catch up with Nvidia, whose technology is already being used in cars from Audi, Citroen, BMW, Tesla, Hyundai, Peugeot, Fiat and others. Intel's also making a play at the automobile market.

This is the first time Qualcomm's showing off concept cars. The vehicles will have the Snapdragon 602A processor, which is specially designed for cars, and the latest LTE and wireless technologies. Qualcomm is also putting its targeted location services into cars so drivers can find services or deals nearby. The chip maker is developing technologies that could cull data from sensors, cameras and social networks for more targeted location services.

Qualcomm has had a subdued presence at previous CES shows, showing its chips, wireless charging, health care other technologies over a smattering of booths across the show floor. But this year, with the connected car demonstrations, it appears to be really trying to put on a show.

Various cars at the show will also feature voice recognition technologies from Nuance, which is well-known for its Dragon dictation software.

Also being demonstrated with the cars is road-sign detection technology from Elektrobit and the latest TomTom navigation system.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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