Fresh off its acquisition of auto-visual company Mobileye, Intel announced today that it will build a fleet of Level 4, fully self-driving vehicles for testing in the US, Israel, and Europe. The first vehicles will hit the road later this year, and the fleet will eventually scale to more than 100 automobiles.
The cars will be Level 4 autonomous, meaning that they will be capable of handing most driving situations themselves, whereas Level 5 is largely theoretical and covers complete automation in any condition.
Intel announced plans to acquire Israel-based Mobileye for $15.3 billion back in March. That deal just closed on Tuesday, spurring the chipmaker to begin making aggressive moves in the emerging self-driving market that Intel itself predicted will come to be worth over $7 trillion. Intel previously said it will spend $250 million over the next two years on the development of autonomous vehicles.
The acquisition of Mobileye has clearly emboldened Intel, which, until recently, appeared to be more of a bystander in the race to build and deploy fully autonomous vehicles. Competitors like Google, Uber, and Tesla were racing ahead, the latter of which was working with Mobileye to round out Autopilot system. Tesla and Mobileye later split after the death of a man in Florida who was driving a Model S using Autopilot, allowing Intel to swoop in and seize the opportunity to make a big splash in the autonomous driving space.
In addition to acquiring Mobileye, Intel also has partnerships with BMW and Delphi, a major supplier of advanced vehicle software and electronics. Mobileye also provides cameras for use in a range of Audi’s vehicles, like the Q7, the A4 / A5 series, and the new Q5. A spokesperson for Intel did not immediately respond to a question about which automaker would be building the chipmaker’s new self-driving cars. Previously, Intel said that its first 40 autonomous vehicles deployed for public trials would be BMW 7 series.
“Building cars and testing them in real-world conditions provides immediate feedback and will accelerate delivery of technologies and solutions for highly and fully autonomous vehicles,” said Amnon Shashua, soon-to-be senior vice president of Intel and future CEO / CTO of Mobileye. “Geographic diversity is very important as different regions have very diverse driving styles as well as different road conditions and signage. Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed anywhere, which means we need to test and train the vehicles in varying locations.”
The system under development by Intel and Mobileye will include cameras, image-processing capabilities, microprocessors, and mapping technology, as well as software that determines how to react to driving situations, pedestrians, and other vehicles, known as “driving policy.”
The companies say they hope to start contracting their self-driving kit to original equipment manufacturers (OEM) like Volvo and GM by 2019. The goal is to have a fully developed package available for automakers to start integrating into new vehicles by 2019.
According to The New York Times, Intel’s vehicles will first be deployed in Arizona, which is also playing host to autonomous testing by Waymo (née Google) and Uber. Big automakers like GM and Ford are also building out their test fleets.