Israel’s Mobileye joins Intel, BMW to develop driverless cars
Collaboration aims to boost investment and position Israel at the forefront of self-driving developments
Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter
The announcement of BMW Group, Intel and Israel’s Mobileye that they intend to join forces to make self-driving vehicles a reality by 2021 will help boost investment in driverless technologies and confirm Israel’s position at the forefront of developments, industry analysts said.
BMW, Intel and Israel’s Mobileye said on Friday they will collaborate to make “self-driving vehicles a reality and available for production by 2021.” The path to the driverless car is “complex and will require solutions that integrate intelligence across the network, from door locks to the data center,” the three companies said at a joint press conference at the German carmaker’s headquarters in Munich.
BMW will provide the cars, Intel will provide the technology that allows connectivity between devices and Jerusalem-based Mobileye will provide its sensing and road experience management technology, the companies said.
Mobileye uses algorithms and video images from a single camera placed in the car to develop its assisted driving technology that can identify vehicles, pedestrians, animals, and lane boundaries, as well as traffic lights. The technology warns drivers of possible hazards and can break autonomously. The Jerusalem-based company, which has had its product integrated into new car models since 2007 to help avoid collisions, held a $1 billion initial public offering of shares in New York in July 2014 and has a market valuation of around $10 billion today.
There are some 30 corporate groups globally, ranging from the automotive industry to leading technology brands — including Google, Daimler and General Motors — that are chasing the dream of driverless cars by setting up research and development activities, and buying or teaming up with tech companies, CB Insights, a New York-based data company said.
“The deal shows the continued broad-based interest in driverless vehicles which we’ve been seeing for sometime,” Anand Sanwal, the chief executive officer of CB Insights, said in an email. We “expect to see continued interest in driverless technology investments by VCs, private equity, and corporations as well as acquisitions of promising technology companies by large corporations.”
For Israel, Sanwal said, “with its deep technical engineering talent, this should portend good things for both startups looking for financing as well as on the M&A front as an increasingly diverse cast of acquirers — auto makers and tech companies intensify their activity.”
The goal of the collaboration between BMW, Intel and Mobileye is to develop solutions that enable the drivers not only to take their hands off the steering wheel, but to reach the so called “eyes off,” and ultimately the “mind off” level, transforming the driver’s in-car time into leisure or work time, the three companies said.
“Today marks an important milestone for the automotive industry as we enter a world of new mobility,” Mobileye co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer Amnon Shashua, said in the joint statement. “Together with BMW Group and Intel, Mobileye is laying the groundwork for the technology of future mobility that enables fully autonomous driving to become a reality within the next few years.”
This level of autonomy would enable the vehicle to achieve the final stage of traveling “driver off,” without a human driver inside. The three companies said they intend to strive for an industry standard and define an open platform for autonomous driving that will be made available to multiple car vendors and other industries that could benefit from autonomous machines and deep machine learning.
“Highly autonomous cars and everything they connect to will require powerful and reliable electronic brains to make them smart enough to navigate traffic and avoid accidents,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. Intel brings to the partnership a “broad set of in-vehicle and cloud computing, connectivity, safety and security, and machine-learning assets to this collaboration, enabling a truly end-to-end solution.”
BMW, Intel and Mobileye said they are convinced that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier, although the news of their team up comes as competitor Tesla — also a maker of driverless cars, recently reported what is believed to be the first fatality in the driverless industry, when a male driver on May 7 crashed his Tesla car and died.
Up until recent years, Israel suffered from significant disadvantages when it came to the car industry, said Shaul Zohar, the founder of Tel Aviv-based Meidata, a market research firm.
Israel is “a geographically isolated market and a late adopter of new vehicles,” Zohar said. “As software components penetrate the automotive industry — connected cars, autonomous vehicles, sensors and apps — Israel improves its position as a global leader, though developers still have much to learn about the car industry standards.”
Teaming up with global manufacturers who know the industry well is a good way forward for some of the more than 100 Israeli startups related to the automotive industry, Zohar said.