Car Wars: Intel Bags Mobileye

Intel is acquiring autonomous driving company Mobileye in a deal valued at $15.3 billion, expected to close toward the end of this year. Acquisition of the Israeli firm, whose technology is used by  27 companies in the auto industry, represents a number of interesting issues in the self-driving vehicle technology race.

Intel has been pursuing autonomous vehicle technology, but this initiative–one of the 10 largest acquisitions in the tech industry–brings it front and center. The key to Mobileye’s autonomous solution lies in its silicon. Mobileye has developed its EyeQ® family of system-on-chip (SoC) devices, which support complex and computationally intense vision processing while still maintaining low power consumption. Mobileye is currently developing its fifth generation chip, the EyeQ 5, to act as the visual central computer for fully autonomous self-driving vehicles expected to appear in 2020. The EyeQ chips employ proprietary computing cores optimized for computer vision, signal processing, and machine learning tasks, including deep neural networks. These cores are designed specifically to address the needs of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

As a chip developer focusing upon providing the building blocks for technology, its traditional role, Intel is moving forcefully in this direction, partly as a result of growing competition in embedded machine learning from the likes of Nvidia and Qualcomm, both of which are also moving into the autonomous vehicle area. Self-driving cars are the nexus of development in machine learning due to the huge profit expectations of the automobile, transportation, and logistics industries. Evolution of autonomous vehicles, particularly with deep learning capabilities in silicon, will also create additional pressure on skills for artificial intelligence across all industry sectors, as well as creating an explosion in innovation and speeding development of these systems.

Intel intends to form an autonomous driving unit combining its current Automated Driving Group (ADG) and Mobileye. The group will be headquartered in Israel and led by Mobileye’s co-founder, Amnon Shashua, currently Mobileye’s Chairman and CTO; and a professor at Hebrew University.

According to the combined press release:

This acquisition will combine the best-in-class technologies from both companies, spanning connectivity, computer vision, data center, sensor fusion, high-performance computing, localization and mapping, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Together with partners and customers, Intel and Mobileye expect to deliver driving solutions that will transform the automotive industry.

The new organization will support both companies’ existing production programs and build upon the large number of relationships that Mobileye maintains with OEMs,  automobile industry tier 1 suppliers, and semiconductor partners.

Intel’s interests in this deal are likely to be diverse. Among the potential benefits are:

  • Potentially four terabytes of data per hour of data to be processed, creating large-scale opportunities for Intel’s high-end Xeon processors and mobilize latest generation of SOC’s.
  • Moving to Israel, where Intel already has a significant presence, potentially isolates its research and testing from the competitive hotbed of Silicon Valley, shielding employees from poaching. It also avoids current immigration issues.
  • Additional competitive advantages within AI and embedded deep learning, which are the next generation targets of Intel’s silicon competition.

It is worth noting that this is a general boost to autonomous vehicles that will inevitably lead to greater concentration of resources in this field.  Although relying upon a common supplier of autonomous systems makes sense economically, it also reduces competitive advantages.

The number of companies involved in this sector continues to grow as the implications stretch out through the entire transportation-related sector.  We have covered a number of these systems in recent blogs here (Car Wars: DiDi Chuxing Roars into the Valley with 400 Million Users, Car Wars: Ford Adds Billion Dollar Investment Acquisition to its AI, All Things Need Autonomy: TomTom Grabs Autonomos, Uber Doubles Down on AI with Geometric Acquisition, Qualcomm Buys NXP for IoT and Cars ). The net result will to be to create a huge rush for talent in the machine learning space, as well as all of the areas related to integration with automobile systems. This will increase the speed of evolution for embedded AI, which will filter rapidly into other areas of business and process enablement though impeded by the availability of talent.


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