Mobileye, the autonomous vehicle systems developer that Intel paid $15.3 billion to acquire in March 2017, held its first post-acquisition investor summit today, and it was as eventful as might be expected. The Tel Aviv company unveiled a collaboration with Chinese automaker NIO to develop “highly automated” electric cars for consumer markets, and it laid out strategic business pillars and its progress to date in key driverless technology segments.
The news comes after the announcement that transportation operator Beijing Public Transport Corporation and Beijing Beytai, an automotive systems integration firm, would explore with Mobileye a commercial China-based transportation service set tentatively to launch in 2022. In related news, Mobileye inked a deal with Volkswagen in October to launch Israel’s first driverless ride-hailing service.
On the subject of the NIO partnership, Mobileye says the forthcoming jointly developed cars — vehicles bound for China and “other major territories” — will be capable of level 4 autonomous driving, meaning they’ll operate with limited human oversight under select conditions as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. NIO will engineer and manufacture a self-driving system designed by Mobileye (building on Mobileye’s level 4 AV kit) and will mass-produce it and integrate it with its consumer vehicle lines. Additionally, NIO will develop a specially configured variant of vehicles that Mobileye will use as robo-taxis, deployed for ride-hailing services in unspecified “global markets.”
By way of a refresher, Mobileye’s level 4 AV kit consists of a robust software and hardware stack designed to handle challenging driving conditions. In addition to cameras, cables, modems, GPS, and additional components — all powered by Mobileye’s fifth-generation EyeQ, a system-on-chip tailor-made for low-power data processing — it confers the full benefits of Mobileye’s Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) model, an open policy that imposes “common sense” constraints on the decisions driverless vehicles make. Mobileye partners also get access to proprietary reinforcement learning algorithms, which the company claims are capable of “superhuman” sight and reaction times.
“We are thrilled by the promise and potential of collaborating with NIO on electric autonomous vehicles, for both consumers and robotaxi fleets,” said Intel senior vice president and Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua, who noted that the agreement marks the first time a large-scale automaker partner is supplying vehicles to Mobileye. “We value the opportunity to bring greater road safety to China and other markets through our efforts and look forward to NIO’s support as Mobileye builds a transformational mobility service across the globe.”
Volkswagen and Champion Motors
Last year saw the launch of Mobile’s venture with Volkswagen and Israeli car importer Champion Motors, which entailed Volkswagen providing vehicles and Mobileye bringing its autonomous driving technology to the table. At the time, Mobileye said it expected the project — dubbed Pinta Pilot — to be commercialized by 2022, with Champion Motors running the fleet operations and control center and the Israeli government sharing infrastructure and traffic data.
Mobileye today reaffirmed that it’s on track to launch a robo-taxi service in Tel Aviv by 2022 and is collaborating with RATP Group (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) to deploy autonomous vehicles elsewhere. Mobileye and RATP intend to begin testing a robo-taxi shuttle fleet in Paris, France beginning sometime in 2020.
Shashua told VentureBeat in a previous interview that the plan is to deploy dozens of vehicles with travel unrestricted between destinations, an expansion from the 11 square kilometers of preselected routes where testing began. In 2023, in pursuit of an autonomous taxi market that’s anticipated to be worth $160 billion by 2030, Mobileye hopes to roll out service across Israel.
On the subject of road mapping, which remains an area of acute interest for Mobileye, the company says more than 20 additional customers joined its Ordnance Survey partnership trial and onboarding process for smart city mapping. The trial kicked off in January, when Mobileye inked an agreement with the British national mapping agency to bring high-precision location data to U.K. agencies and businesses.
Mobileye is actively engaged in map creation based on data from BMW, Volkswagen, Nissan, and three other major OEMs. In Israel, by the end of 2020 Mobileye, Volkswagen, and Champion Motors expect to collect data from 33 kilometers of Tel Aviv’s roads, and from another 111 kilometers in the following two years. Moreover, based on harvesting volumes, Mobileye is predicting the E.U. will be fully mapped by Q1 2020 and the majority of the U.S. before 2020.
For the uninitiated, Mobileye’s Road Experience Management mapping system — the system responsible for gathering location data on road networks from sensors mounted on car exteriors — cross-references publicly available geospatial data sets like OS MasterMap. Ordnance Survey, Mobileye, and other partners use the resulting high-resolution maps to offer location-aware services to local companies.
Mobileye says it has achieved strong momentum in the estimated $72.5 billion advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) market. By the end of 2019, Mobileye will have shipped more than 50 million EyeQ chips since 2008, up from 1 million shipped in 2012. Its products power ADAS in 300 car models across 27 OEM partners, and major recent wins include 4 million new units with a large European OEM and a deal with the largest OEM in India, as well as a contract with two “leading” Chinese OEMs.
Mobileye notched a record quarter with 20% revenue growth year over year in Q3 2019, driven mostly by its ADAS business. That propelled it to become Intel’s fastest-growing business on an annualized basis.
“Intel is participating in … expanded and increasingly data-centric [segments],” said Intel CFO George Davis. “As one of Intel’s big bets, Mobileye is a critical part of Intel’s future and is already exceeding our expectations with ADAS revenue today that is funding the future of driverless cars.”