Mobileye, Intel’s driverless vehicle R&D division, today announced that German certification body TÜV Süd awarded it a recommendation for a permit to drive its autonomous vehicles on public roads in Germany, including urban and rural areas as well as the Autobahn at up to 130 kilometers (~80 miles) per hour in real-world traffic. Mobileye — which says testing will begin now in and around Munich before expanding elsewhere — claims it’s one of the first non-OEMs to receive a driverless vehicle test permit from German regulators. Volkswagen and BMW, among others, have been testing in German cities, including Hamburg, since mid-2019.
In partnership with Moovit, the mobility-as-a-service startup Mobileye acquired in May for $900 million, Mobileye aims to build full end-to-end ride-hailing experiences with its vehicles using Moovit’s mobility platform and apps. By the end of this year, Mobileye says it expects to scale open-road testing in other countries including Israel, France, and South Korea.
Mobileye, which Intel paid $15.3 billion to acquire in March 2017, is building two independent self-driving systems. One is based entirely on cameras, while the second incorporates radar, lidar sensors, modems, GPS, and other components. Both confer 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, and with the latter theoretically able to travel 100 million hours without a crash.
Mobileye has previously demonstrated that its perception system can detect traffic lights and signs, enabling it to handle intersections fully autonomously. But it also relies on high-definition maps of transportation lines, light rail lines, and roads themselves captured by the company’s Road Experience Management (REM) technology. “Harvesting” agents, the Mobileye-supplied advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) embedded in vehicles from automakers who agree to share data with the company, collect and transmit maps with driving path geometries and stationary landmarks around them. Software running within cars — eventually including cars from Mobileye’s data-sharing partners — automatically localize within the maps via real-time detection of recorded, stored, and annotated landmarks.
Mobileye collects 3.7 million miles of sensor data from vehicles on roads every day and draws on publicly available geospatial corpora like OS MasterMap and Ordnance Survey. The company expects to have more than 1 million vehicles in its European fleet by the end of 2020 and 1 million U.S. vehicles in 2021. By 2025, Mobileye anticipates its fleet will span more than 25 million vehicles globally.
Mobileye is aiming to deploy robo-taxi fleets in three major cities — Tel Aviv; Paris; and Daegu City, South Korea — by 2022, with the hardware cost per robo-taxi coming in at around $10,000 to $15,000 per vehicle. (By 2025, Mobileye is aiming to bring the cost of a self-driving system below $5,000.) In the interim, the plan is to deploy dozens of vehicles with unrestricted travel between destinations in Israel ahead of a rollout across the country, potentially alongside the launch of a China-based service in partnership with Beijing Public Transport Corporation and Beijing Beytai.
Beyond Mobileye, a number of companies are developing autonomous vehicle systems that lean heavily (or exclusively) on cameras for routing. There’s Wayve, a U.K.-based startup that trains self-driving models solely in simulation, and Comma.ai, which sells an aftermarket self-driving kit to retrofit existing cars. And then there’s Tesla, which recently released a preview of an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and lane changes. Like Mobileye, Tesla leverages a fleet of hundreds of thousands of sensor-equipped cars to collect data for analysis, which it uses to train, develop, and refine algorithms in the cloud that are then sent via over-the-air updates to those vehicles.