Intel to Partner With BMW, Mobileye on Driverless Cars

The vendors have set a news conference for July 1 to talk about the new alliance in the fast-growing autonomous vehicle space.

autonomous vehicles

Intel reportedly is joining with automaker BMW and vehicle sensor vendor Mobileye in an alliance to develop self-driving car technology.

The three companies will conduct a Webcast news conference July 1. While no details about the subject of the event were released, all three companies have ambitions for the autonomous car space. A partnership would be only the latest alliance between automakers and technology firms in a rapidly expanding race to put driverless cars on the road.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will be joined by BMW CEO Harald Krueger and Amnon Shashua, co-founder, chairman and CTO of Mobileye. The three will talk about a new alliance, according to a report by Bloomberg.

BMW executives have said they intend to bring autonomous cars to market by 2021, and the company has been a partner of Mobileye, whose technologies enable vehicles to sense the environment around them and to generate the data needed for the self-driving cars to react accordingly.

For Intel, a company that has seen the global PC market contract over the past several years and efforts to make headway into the mobile device space falter, the rapidly expanding autonomous vehicle space represents a growth market and is a key part of the chip maker's larger ambitions around the Internet of things (IoT).

In a post on Intel's blog outlining the company's future strategy, Krzanich noted that a key element will be focusing on the IoT, which he said includes "all smart devices—every device, sensor, console and any other client device—that are connected to the cloud."

"The biggest opportunity in the Internet of Things is that it encompasses just about everything in our lives today—it's ubiquitous," the CEO wrote. "At Intel, we will focus on autonomous vehicles, industrial and retail as our primary growth drivers of the Internet of Things."

Most of the top automakers are investing in the development of driverless cars, and it will be a boon for technology companies that not only will create the sensors and cameras that will enable the vehicles to see the environment around them, but also will need to develop the products that can collect, store and analyze the massive amounts of data that these sensors will create and can enable the cars to react accordingly. The market has gotten a boost in recent years by R&D investments being made by such top-tier tech vendors as Google.

Estimates on how many driverless cars will be on the road in the near future vary. Analysts at Grand View Research said in a recent study that by 2024, the market will number 138,089 vehicles, with the path forward being eased by the wide acceptance of such semi-autonomous technologies as Adaptive Cruise Control, automatic parking and forward collision avoidance. The benefits of driverless cars include fewer accidents and related deaths, as well as better fuel consumption and less traffic congestion, they said, though market challenges include vehicle prices and an emotional pushback to the idea of trusting personal safety to a machine. IHS Automotive analysts are projecting that more than 20 million autonomous vehicles will be on the road by 2035.

Intel is facing some tough competition in the market for processors for autonomous cars, with rivals such as NXP Semiconductors and Qualcomm already making strong moves in the space. NXP in May introduced a platform for self-driving cars that includes everything from the sensors that collect massive amounts of data to the compute engine—which the company calls the BlueBox—capable of fusing all that data and ensuring that the right decisions are made. Qualcomm has been active in the space for a couple of years, and in June introduced the Qualcomm Connected Car Reference Platform, designed to give car makers the tools and technologies they need to design and build their vehicles as well as address the growing range of use cases brought on by the rapid advances in wireless connectivity, such as 4G LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

Nvidia in April unveiled the Drive PX 2 development board and is shipping its DriveWorks platform.

Mobileye has been a longtime partner of semiconductor maker STMicroelectronics, and the two companies in May outlined plans for the fifth generation of Mobileye's system on a chip (SoC), the EyeQ 5, which will collect and fuse the broad range of data being generated by the array of sensors on the vehicle. Whether the alliance with Intel and BMW will impact Mobileye's partnership with STMicroelectronics is unclear.