Google Launches Ripple Project, as Automakers League Rears to Challenge Tesla

Google uncovered plans to bring forth an open-source application programming interface (API) standard called Ripple Project that would help bring multi-functional small chips to various devices, including electric vehicles (EV).

Since 2015, Google openly revealed that it was entering the gates of chip-making with its tiny radar chips that can keep score of sleep schedules, control smartwatches, count sheets of paper, and many more features.

The company, which was manufacturing the giant’s chips, Soli, faced some obstacles in delivering commercial success, with the most prominent incident concerning a malfunctioning Pixel unit.

Alphabet unit’s latest open standard launch could be directed towards some of the biggest names in the automobile industry, with American multinational automobile manufacturer Ford being one of the participants in the giant’s new standard.

While it is still unclear who is leading the Ripple project, in reality, it falls under the sponsorships of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) – the same entity hosting the CES tradeshow in Las Vegas.

“Ripple will unlock helpful innovation that benefits everyone. General-purpose radar is a key emerging technology for solving critical use cases in a privacy-respecting way,” said the man leading the team at Google’s ATAP skunkworks who created Soli, Ivan Poupyrev.

This comes at a time when some of the leading names in the automobile industry, such as Ford Motor Company, General Motors (GM) Co., and Volvo Cars, are seeking different ventures to strengthen relations with technology partners, as they brace themselves for standing against EV rivals Tesla Inc., and Apple Inc.

At Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES), three of the leading chip manufacturers, Intel Corp’s Mobileye, Qualcomm Inc, and Nvidia Corp were announced to take over chip manufacturing for self-driving cars for the upcoming ten years.

This will include establishing scores of slower chips from previous generations and turning them into “powerful centralized computers.” To win the deal, chip manufacturing firms will have to allow automakers to control key parts of the technology.

Last year, according to a Bloomberg report, iOS developer, Apple, unveiled plans to build an electric car and mark its first presence towards entering the EV league as early as 2025.

To compete with Apple and Tesla, automakers will have to take extreme measures to fulfill their goal, as they are designing computers with augmented self-driving abilities. This will weaponize automakers with the needed tools to expand their monetary empire from software and services embedded into the cars even after it is sold.

According to Danny Shapiro, vice president, automotive for Nvidia, automakers “that haven’t been the pioneers are finally realizing they’re going to be left in the dust if they don’t change their approach.”

This week, software-defined company Nvidia also shared a segment of its plans for the upcoming decade, announcing deals to provide electric brains for several rising Chinese EV startups and other automakers, including Mercedes, Hyundai Motor Co., Volvo, and Audi.

Shapiro stressed the vitality of lining out specific guidelines defining the control of technology and data that could lead to tensions between automakers and technology companies.

“Control and customization, and who owns the data?” he said.

The answer, though, is quite difficult to answer given it would require an astounding amount of technology to create a fully autonomous car. This also means incorporating computer vision algorithms that would simultaneously work with cameras to identify pedestrians, extensive full HD maps of the roads worldwide, and “drive policy” software to conduct decisions in a millisecond concerning the vehicle’s behavior when faced with the unanticipated.

For this reason, semiconductor manufacturers will be faced with the ordeals of comprehensively developing the needed technology, all while considering the customers’ choice of picking and choosing.

San-Diego based manufacturer, Qualcomm, spent in 2021 alone $4.5 billion on a Veoneer Inc purchase to gather all the required pieces of software to complete its self-driving car chips. However, while the company did secure the investment, the semiconductor giant signed a contract with GM last week.

GM already has its own software assets, so the automaker will not be needing Qualcomm’s recently obtained assets.

“Our software slack is all internally developed. So, we’re not taking their pieces,” chief engineer for GM’s forthcoming “Ultra Cruise” hands-free-driving product, Jason Ditman, said in a statement.