Cadillac’s new flagship will be a long, limo-like sedan with a hatchback instead of a trunk. Not only will the Cadillac Celestiq be hand-built, hand-crafted, and hands-down jaw-dropping—it’ll be SnapDragon smart.

Before we get to what that’s all about, General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra promises more information on this halo electric vehicle in the first half of this year. We hope and expect this includes showing it in public, given how it appears as though the Celestiq is hitting the market in 2023. During a virtual keynote address for CES 2022, Barra said the next generation of its hands-free driver assist system known as Ultra Cruise will be available next year on the Celestiq, among other GM rides. Ultra Cruise is next-level tech, building on Super Cruise which offers highway hands-free driving capability and offering door-to-door hands-free driving.

SnapDragon Capability

Here is where SnapDragon comes in. The computing power that enables Ultra Cruise to take over driving the car comes from a computer architecture that puts the intelligent driving system onto chips. These smart semiconductors come from Qualcomm Technologies, and GM will be the first automaker to use the tech company’s SnapDragon Ride Platform which is an artificial intelligence accelerator. That is what allows the car to become the driver on virtually all paved roads.

Ultra Cruise’s computer (yes it is a noun) is about the size of two laptops stacked together. It has high-performance sensors and enough memory bandwidth to work with GM’s Ultra Cruise software to allow the Celestiq to handle all the driving in 95 percent of all driving scenarios.

“Despite its relatively small size, Ultra Cruise’s computer will have the processing capability of several hundred personal computers,” Ken Morris, GM vice president of Electric, Autonomous and Fuel Cell Vehicle Programs, said in a release. “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.”

GM Developed Ultra Cruise Software

GM developed the Ultra Cruise software at engineering facilities in Israel, the United States, Canada, and Ireland. It was designed to work with vehicles equipped with cameras, radar, and lidar gathering reams of data.

The overall system consists of two SnapDragon system-on-chips (SoC) and one AI accelerator to control driver functions. They were designed to meet all safety standards with multiple redundancies built it to keep the driver-as-passenger safe.

“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,” Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. senior vice president and GM, Automotive, said in a release. “Ultra Cruise powered by Snapdragon Ride on Cadillac vehicles will be an experiential and technological leap forward for the industry.”

And if all this isn’t enough, GM promises Ultra Cruise will continue to evolve and the SnapDragon platform was designed for future expansion and over-the-air updates through GM’s Ultify software platform and electrical architecture. Barra says Ultify, a new Linux-based software platform, is now available on seven models.

Automakers Talk Tech

GM is not alone in these efforts. Words like SnapDragon, SoC, and OTA are becoming part of the more mainstream automotive lexicon. And this year’s CES had a large automotive presence with more vehicles shown than ever before.

Stellantis used CES to announce agreements with Amazon to advance its own software-driving evolution of the experience customers can expect in their new vehicles.

Stellantis will use Amazon Devices, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon Last Mile, while also selling a fleet of electric Ram ProMaster commercial vehicles to Amazon starting in 2023.

Amazon will help Stellantis develop vehicles, create software-based products and services, leverage artificial intelligence, and even train 5,000 future software developers and engineers by 2024.

The two will deliver software for the STLA SmartCockpit that will start showing up in vehicles in 2024, providing an enhanced infotainment experience. Amazon is the cloud provider for all the data involved.

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