Intel’s Road to Self-Driving Cars Is Paved In Acquisitions

March 13, 2017, 9:34 PM UTC

Intel’s plan to compete in the emerging space of autonomous vehicles has hardly been subtle.

Its latest move to acquire computer vision systems company Mobileye for $15.3 billion is perhaps the biggest signal to date of its intention.

But the world’s largest chipmaker has spent the past 18 months investing in and acquiring companies as well as reorganizing its own business, all in an effort to ensure it doesn’t miss out on the next money-making opportunity.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says autonomous driving is estimated to be a $70 billion vehicle systems and data services (total addressable market) opportunity by 2030.

This timeline of acquisitions and other activity shows how Intel intends to capture a piece of that market.

To be clear, Intel has a history in automotive. The company and its Wind River unit provides software and hardware products that it calls “In-Vehicle Solutions” and is used in vehicle infotainment systems, including navigation and telematics systems, which are used to provide real-time diagnostics, manage fleets of vehicles, and wireless hot spots.

Its activity in the past 18 months illustrates the company’s plan to expand beyond its existing business.

August 2015: Intel acquires for $16.7 billion a company called Altera that makes a type of chip called a field programmable gate array, or FPGA. Remember FPGA and that it’s different than other chips because it can be reprogrammed after it’s made.

April 2016: Intel acquires Yogitech, an Italian semiconductor designer that specializes in adding safety functions to chips used in self-driving cars and other autonomous devices.

April 2016: Intel’s Wind River unit, which focuses on Internet of Things software, says it has acquired Arynga, which makes software allowing cars to receive over-the-air updates.

May 2016: Intel buys Itseez, a company that specializes in machine vision technology that lets computers see and understand their surroundings. The technology is necessary for an autonomous vehicle, which needs to be able to perceive the world around it.

July 2016: BMW, Intel, and Mobileye announce they will partner to produce self-driving cars for city streets by 2021 and develop the technology as an open platform that can be used other automakers or ride-sharing companies.

September 2016: Intel acquires Moviduis, an AI startup that makes computer vision processors used in drones and virtual reality devices.

November 2016: Krzanich announces that the company’s venture capital arm will invest $250 million over the next two years into autonomous vehicle technology.

November 2016: Intel reorganizes its business to create a new division dedicated to autonomous driving. The new division, called the Automated Driving Group, spun out of its Internet of Things business.

January 2017: Intel launches a Intel GO, a new brand for its software and hardware tools for the development of driverless vehicles.

The brand includes a series of hardware and software development kits to help developers and engineers test and improve autonomous driving applications. The platform takes sensor data from cameras or radars on the vehicle and combines them with high-definition maps and artificial intelligence to determine the path the car is going to take.

Remember the FPGA, and the company Altera that makes them? This new GO platform pairs the FPGA technology with Intel processors.

Intel also launches under the new brand a 5G platform and a modem to help automakers develop and test a wide range of applications ahead of the expected rollout of 5G wireless systems in 2020.

January 2017: BMW, Intel, and Mobileye say they will put a fleet of about 40 autonomous BMW cars on the road by the end of the year.