Intel Chips Help Waymo’s Self-Driving Minivans Make Decisions in Real Time

September 18, 2017, 6:11 PM UTC

Waymo—the Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet—said Monday it’s using Intel chips as part of a compute platform that allows its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to process huge amounts of data so it can make decisions in real time while navigating city streets.

It was the first time both companies acknowledged the collaboration, a revelation that gives new insight into Waymo’s approach to self-driving vehicles. It’s also a win for Intel, which has been pushing into the autonomous vehicle space with its $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye and alliances with BMW and Fiat Chrysler. Until recently, Intel has been viewed as a laggard behind rival Nvidia, a graphics processing chipmaker that is rapidly expanding into artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and self-driving cars.

Waymo has prided itself on designing every aspect of its self-driving vehicles, particularly their eyes, ears, and brains. Waymo designed the entire suite of sensors that allows its self-driving minivans to see and hear the world around it. This includes the vision system, radars, and light detection, and ranging radar known as LiDAR.

But Waymo hasn’t talked a lot about its computing platform, or about the fact that Intel was working with the company to integrate chips that allow the minivans to process the large tranches of information coming in from the sensors on these vehicles.

“As the most advanced vehicles on the road today, our self-driving cars require the highest-performance computers to make safe driving decisions in real time,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in an emailed statement. “Intel’s technology supports the advanced processing inside our vehicles, with the ability to manufacture to meet Waymo’s needs at scale.”

Waymo has used Intel tech since 2009, the company said in a blog post Monday. However, it wasn’t until Waymo started the Chrysler Pacifica minivan project that it began working more closely with the chipmaker.

“As Waymo’s self-driving technology becomes smarter and more capable, its high-performance hardware and software will require even more powerful and efficient computers,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a blog post Monday. “By working closely with Waymo, Intel can offer Waymo’s fleet of vehicles the advanced processing power required for level 4 and 5 autonomy.”

Level 4 autonomy is a designation by the SAE that means the car takes over all of the driving in certain conditions. Level 5 means the car takes over all driving in every condition or environment.