Fresh from completing its $15 billion acquisition of sensor company Mobileye, Intel is taking a giant leap into the self-driving car game.
Its first move? The creation of a fleet of 100 self-driving cars, due to hit the roads before the end of the year.
According to Intel, the vehicles will combine Mobileye’s “computer vision, sensing, fusion, mapping, and driving policy” with Intel’s “open compute platforms and expertise in data center and 5G communication technologies to deliver a complete ‘car-to-cloud’ system.” The fleet will consist of a variety of car brands and vehicle types to demonstrate its versatility and adaptability.
The fully autonomous (level 4) vehicles will be deployed for testing in the U.S., Israel, and Europe. Level 4 cars are fully autonomous but just short of fully replacing a human driver—they are unable to navigate every extreme driving scenario.
Even before the completion of the deal, Intel and Mobileye began working with BMW and Delphi Automotive on their self-driving cars. However, the deal lends much-needed credibility to Intel, as Mobileye’s technology is already used by several automakers, including Tesla, for its autopilot feature. For most of the last couple of years, it has been perceived as lagging behind rival Nvidia in what promises to be an enormous growth market for computing chips.
“Intel now has a very big footprint in all parts of the autonomous vehicle, the brains, the sensors, the information side, the mapping,” said Mike Ramsey, a Gartner analyst who tracks the development of self-driving cars. “The acquisition clearly puts Intel in the conversation. It guarantees they will be a player.”
With the combined strengths of the two companies, Mobileye co-founder Amnon Shashua told the New York Times that the new system would be twice as powerful as Mobileye’s current product. This first fleet might be just the ticket Intel needs to become a serious contender in the self-driving car game.