Mobile World Congress 2016
Mobile Meets Automotive: Innovation at F1 Speeds

Mobile technology is a major key to the future of the automotive industry, says Derek Aberle, President of Qualcomm Incorporated. During a keynote at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday, Aberle spoke up Qualcomm’s commitment to building the car of the future. He was joined by Formula One driving champion Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG Petronas Executive Technical Director Paddy Lowe, who have partnered with Qualcomm to gather data on and power their vehicles in hopes of blowing past the competition.


The amount of data that Hamilton’s team now collects about each car that is built—and Hamilton drives during practice laps and races—is astounding, and the speed at which they’re able to process it is a game-changer. To Lowe, the most important technological advancement has been a WiFi solution, developed with Qualcomm, which is able to download data into the team’s system while the car is still on the track. In the past, all the data that was collected couldn’t be downloaded until the test run was complete and the car was stopped, so the advancement is saving Hamilton’s team a lot of time, and they’re able to make adjustments a lot more quickly. For Hamilton, this results in more efficient use of limited practice time.

But can any of the technology that Qualcomm has developed for Mercedes AMG Petrona help the regular everyday driver? One aspect is fuel and power efficiency. Lowe stated that in the whole scope of automotive history, cars have operated at about 30% efficiency. The team now operates their cars at 45% efficiency, and is growing that number each year. That’s certainly something consumers would love to have available to them at the dealership.

Prior to bringing out Hamilton and Lowe, Aberle spoke about Qualcomm’s role in building the future of automotive. He reiterated often that the technology that we most associate being crucial for autonomous cars is being used today in other sectors. “In our phone now, we have GPS, computer vision, machine learning, sensor fusion,” he said. But he did mention the importance of 5G and reliable, secure connections in order for autonomous cars to be truly safe for consumers to use.


Advancements in charging is another aspect of mobile technology that has implications for the auto industry. While wireless charging for mobile devices has struggled to catch on, it’s implications for electric cars is crucial. It’s one thing if you’re tired and forget to charge your phone before you go to sleep, but if you forget to plug in your car one night, the consequences can be a lot more dire. Aberle spoke about the need for not only wireless charging technology—the ability for a car to charge when parked in a designated spot in a garage, driveway or street—but for “dynamic wireless charging”, the ability for a car to charge while it’s being driven. This is something we’d love to have for all of our mobile devices, but might be even more important and useful for electric cars.

While we’re all not nearly as skilled as Lewis Hamilton is behind the wheel, the cars of our future are likely to adopt a lot of the same technology and innovations that have helped maked him an F-1 Champion.

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