Tech giant Intel today unveiled a $15.3 billion proposal to acquire Mobileye, an Israel-based firm whose driver-assistance technology is already used in millions of vehicles. The two companies, along with BMW Group, have been partners since last year in a joint project to begin producing self-driving cars by 2021.
Founded in 1999, Mobileye develops software and EyeQ computer chips that use machine vision and artificial intelligence for vehicle-based advanced driver assist systems. The company already works with more than two dozen automaker partners around the world.
By adding Mobileye's technology and workforce to its own organization, Intel said it aims to speed up innovation and position itself as a leader in the fast-developing market for autonomous cars. That market, including systems, data and services, could be worth as much as $70 billion by 2030, according to Intel.
Building on Mobileye's Momentum
If approved by regulators, Intel's acquisition of Mobileye is expected to close sometime later this year. The new organization created by the combination of Mobileye and Intel's Automated Driving Group would be based in Israel and led by Amnon Shashua, Mobileye's co-founder, chairman and CTO.
Shashua is also chairman of the computer science department at Hebrew University, where the Mobileye technology was developed. Mobileye went public in 2014 in the largest-ever Israeli initial public offering. The proposed Intel deal is also reportedly the Israeli tech industry's highest-value acquisition to date.
"We are always happy to see technology started at Hebrew University become such a huge success," said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, which is the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "This is a record deal not only for Yissum and Mobileye, but for Israel."
Under the deal, Intel will provide the foundational technologies for autonomous driving, including plotting the car ’s path and making real-time driving decision, while Mobileye will bring automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement. "Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers," he said.
Ziv Aviram, Mobileye's co-founder, president and CEO, added, "By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms."
Tech Inspired by How Humans See
Mobileye's technology is already being used by 27 automakers in 313 different models and over 15 million vehicles, according to the company. Mobile's driver assistance systems are based on a single-lensed (mono) camera approach modeled on how humans see.
"The Mobileye mono-camera was inspired by human vision, which only uses both eyes to obtain depth perception for very short distances," Shashua said on the company's About page. "All depth-perception cues for farther distances -- such as perspective, shading, texture, and motion cues, that the human visual system uses in order to understand the visual world -- are interpreted by a single eye. Therefore, Mobileye understood that a single-lens camera could be the primary sensor to enable autonomous driving."
Intel sees autonomous driving as a fast-developing market that could mean new opportunities for its existing data-processing capabilities and technologies.
"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," Intel's Krzanich said in July in a statement announcing the company's partnership with Mobileye and BMW Group. "We bring 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."
At the CES 2017 in Las Vegas this January, Intel, Mobileye and BMW Group revealed plans to deploy a fleet of around 40 autonomous test vehicles on the roads by the second half of this year.