Future Voice Vol.1 Qualcomm’s Vision Raises the Bar for Software Defined Vehicles

Qualcomm Nakul Duggal

On June 21, at Qualcomm’s Global Headquarters in San Diego, we had an opportunity to interview Nakul Duggal , SVP and General Manager, Automotive and Cloud Computing for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., regarding a strategic technology partnership between Qualcomm Technologies and Sony Honda Mobility (SHM). This interview took place on the same day as the meetup event between Qualcomm and SHM, which we reported on previously.

Mr. Duggal is at the forefront of Software-Defined Vehicles, the future of car connectivity and digital mobility. For AFEELA, we will tap Qualcomm Technologies for key features including AD/ADAS, HMI/IVI, and telematics utilizing the Snapdragon® Digital Chassis™. We strive to maximize performance, and it goes without saying that Qualcomm Technologies’ automotive products and solutions are at the forefront of the Software-Defined Vehicle, which is the future of digital mobility. Choosing their reliable Snapdragon Digital Chassis* platform, which is the company’s comprehensive set of cloud-connected automotive platforms for telematics and connectivity, computing and driver assistance and autonomy, holds significant importance for AFEELA as our first prototype. We had the opportunity to interview Mr. Duggal, where he discussed the potential of technology beyond the partnership with SHM.

In this article, we aim to capture his raw voice as much as possible, with minimal editing, to highlight the depth of his insights leading the cutting-edge mobility technology and shed light on his unwavering passion for technology from his own human perspective.

Six months after AFEELA’s unveiling at CES, Duggal loves how the car turned out.
“I love everything about AFEELA,” says Duggal. “What was a concept has become a vehicle platform. Mobility is now something you can work out in front of your eyes. What was simply a conversation a few years ago turned into this. Working with Honda and Sony, building a product that customers will enjoy and be delighted to see. It’s fantastic for us to be part of.”

Duggal believes Sony got into the car business for all the right reasons. And partnered with Honda, for all the right reasons.
“Sony has always been a top-of-the-line consumer brand,” says Duggal. “Honda has always been a company with a storied heritage in terms of mobility. The two brands bringing their collective philosophy to AFEELA is compelling.”

Duggal was asked about what his drive is like now, versus what it will be like once he drives AFEELA.
“Right now, I have a fairly mundane drive,” he says. “I use a convertible as my daily driver and travel 7 or 8 miles every day. I spend most of my time listening to music or on a conference call. AFEELA will bring a whole different experience. The amount of time we spend in a car could have much more value – it could be much more productive and entertaining if it was designed to be a living space that pulls you in.”

As for what happens when Duggal gets into our AFEELA and activates the autonomous driving function for the first time?
“It begins with luxury,” says Duggal. “Is it more digital or creature comforts? It’s both. As you start to spend time inside the vehicle, the thing that stands out is all you can get out of the digital living space. Over time, automation and autonomy features will start to mature because if you want to enjoy the living space, you want the car to have a certain amount of automation which controls everything.”

Qualcomm Nakul Duggal

Duggal then discussed Qualcomm Technologies’ contribution to AFEELA and SHM partnership.
“We read AFEELA was going to be connected. Connecting the car makes the car a part of an ecosystem, an ecosystem that is still being defined. We have the Snapdragon Digital Chassis*, an assimilation of all of the things that we do well: connectivity, in-car experiences, driverless systems and automated driving. So, we have Sony with entertainment, Honda with their legendary car platforms and Qualcomm Technologies with our technology solutions.”

*SoCs from Qualcomm Technologies’ Snapdragon Digital Chassis will be used in key features for AFEELA.

Now that AFEELA has debuted and the consumer starts to formulate their expectations, Duggal discussed the future of mobility.
“It starts with two big vectors,” says Duggal. “The first one is that electrification of cars forces a change in society. It forces you to think about how infrastructure is evolving. The other piece is digital and electrification are connected. When you bring those two together, you have a brand-new product, a digital space. It’s a living space – not a product, not a phone, not a TV. It’s an experience that moves with you. Over time it’s going to get customized and cater to your specific needs. This is new.”

Duggal mentioned the technical challenges that need to be overcome to solve a very complex transportation/supply chain puzzle.
“We have learned over the last decade that building a car is not for the faint of heart,” he says. “It is a complicated product where safety is paramount. We take the safety part very seriously. Beyond safety, the car is an asset built for 10, 15, 20 years. We think about the life of this platform and how is it managed, plus how the second and third life of the platform is managed.”

About the future of AFEELA, Duggal feels the need to talk about the future of the mobility industry as a whole.
“There is so much change ahead with the move towards software-defined vehicles, connectivity, AI and greater safety,” adds Duggal. “ I think all of us are going to benefit immensely because the consumer is going to see a lot of different experiences as different innovations are brought onto platforms that traditionally were slower to evolve. The great thing about all this is that you can’t look back at all this disruption and say the same thing happened in another industry. It’s all brand new. But what better companies to come together for this than Sony and Honda.”

Qualcomm executives and SHM Izumi Kawanishi COO


Editor’s Note:

The “Future Voice” spoke with Mr. Duggal for an uninterrupted 45 minutes. He was filled with a calmness that couldn’t conceal his profound love for technology.
What became evident is that the partnership with Sony Honda Mobility represents more than just titles for him. It signifies a transformative event in the future of experiences, the potential of mobility and the emotions felt towards AFEELA. We posed questions from three different perspectives, and his responses were strong from each one. Furthermore, the words that emerged regarding the future of mobility experiences went beyond his role with Qualcomm and resonated as a testament to the dreams of innovators in the tech industry. We hope that this determined “Future Voice” of this leader, who envisions the future of mobility experiences, transcends the boundaries of AFEELA and reaches many engineers.

Snapdragon and Digital Chassis are trademarks or registered trademarks of Qualcomm Incorporated.