A lot of media coverage of self-driving technology has focused on a handful of big companies with well-known brands: Google, Uber, Tesla, and GM. But there’s another company working on self-driving technology that might ultimately prove even more important. That company is Mobileye, an Israeli startup that was acquired by Intel in 2017 and who is using cameras and HD maps instead of lidar.
From an article in Ars Technica by Timothy B. Lee.
Mobileye doesn’t have Elon Musk’s star power or Google’s billions. But it has something that’s arguably even more important: a dominant position in today’s market for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Mobileye had a very public split with Tesla back in 2016, but it continues to do business with a lot of other carmakers. Mobileye says it shipped 17.4 million systems last year, which means 17.4 million customers bought cars with Mobileye’s cameras and HD maps, chips, and software.
In a Tuesday speech at the Consumer Electronics show, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua made clear just how big of a strategic advantage this is. He laid out Mobileye’s vision for the evolution of self-driving technology over the next five years. And he made it clear that he envisions Mobileye staying at the center of the industry.
For the last two years, we’ve touted Cadillac’s Super Cruise as the gold standard for ADAS systems. Two features make Super Cruise stand out. First, it uses a driver-facing camera to verify that the driver’s eyes are on the road. If not, the system forces the driver to take over. This feature addresses one of the biggest concerns with ADAS systems: that they could make drivers so complacent that they don’t intervene when the technology malfunctions.
Second, Cadillac has pre-mapped more than 130,000 miles of freeways in the US and Canada. The system will only engage on those roads, which makes it much less likely that the system will get confused and make a dangerous mistake.
In his Tuesday speech, Mobileye’s Shashua calls ADAS systems with high-definition maps, like Super Cruise, “Level 2+”—a small step above regular ADAS systems that are called “level 2” in the five-level SAE framework. A number of carmakers have developed similar systems. Shashua says Mobileye is supplying the technology for 70 percent of them, including systems from Nissan, Volkswagen, and BMW.
As it sells its technology to carmakers, Mobileye has bargained for access to sensor data from customer vehicles. Shashua says that Mobileye is already collecting data from Volkswagen, BMW, and Nissan vehicles. He says three other unnamed carmakers have also agreed to participate.
The scale of this program is massive. Mobileye says it is already collecting 6 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) of sensor data every day from vehicles on public roads. Mobileye expects to have more than 1 million vehicles in its European fleet by the end of 2020, and 1 million American vehicles the following year.
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