Why Intel got inside BMW-Mobileye deal

July 04, 2016 // By Junko Yoshida
Described their collaboration as a “commitment to strive for an industry standard and define an open platform for autonomous driving,” the BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye announced Friday (July 1) that they are joining forces to bring fleets of fully self-driving vehicles to the streets by 2021.

While the BMW-Mobileye connection has been known to industry observers, Intel was a surprise element in the three-way deal.
It’s not all that clear if the BMW-Mobileye-Intel agreement extends to plans of “Intel inside” the autonomous vehicle. Even if it does, analysts are skeptical that Mobileye – known as a jealous defender of its algorithms – would gladly share with anyone, let alone Intel. 

Nonetheless, in a climate where autonomous car RFQs are flying around and no car company CEOs can avoid talking about driverless vehicles in quarterly financial calls, it’s not surprising to see technology suppliers rushing into the spotlight.

Accelerate autonomous car development
Following the announcement of the three-way deal, EE Times asked automotive industry analysts a few questions: 1) Is it time for Mobileye’s competitors -- NXP, Nvidia, Qualcomm et al – to start freaking out? 2) Are Mobileye’s current partners -- such as Volkswagen Group, General Motors, Nissan, Tesla Motors -- likely to revolt? 3) Or, should everyone just chill and take this new development in stride?
Egil Juliussen, director research, Infotainment & ADAS at IHS Automotive, elicited the latter opinion.
He told EE Times, “It makes a lot of sense. Autonomous cars are very difficult to do. You need so many different technologies – deep learning, sensor fusion and others – to replace a human driver in a car.”

On a higher level, he concluded, “The joint effort like this will move things forward and faster.”
BMW, Intel and Mobileye hope to establish a big lead in the nascent self-driving car segment. Many other automakers are also racing to get there, but in reality, smaller companies probably don’t have deep enough pockets to pull it off.

Google factor
Then, “there is a Google factor,” Juliussen added. The automotive industry can’t afford to ignore Google, whose self-driving cars are viewed as “far ahead in some areas,” he noted.
Although Mobileye’s competitors may be concerned about the BMW/Mobileye/Intel alliance, autonomous cars are “still in a pre-competitive stage,” stressed Juliussen.
He pointed out, “Think about complexities that will come with standards for testing and verifying autonomous cars.” Individual technology suppliers should benefit from an autonomous car platform, he pointed out, so that they can avoid duplication in their development efforts.

Consider the GENIVI Alliance, a non-profit automotive industry alliance, Juliussen added. The industry group – originally started by Intel, BMW, GM and many more – has succeeded with its public open-source software project. “Carmakers [and chip vendors] can still compete on implementation levels.”
Whether the newly announced BMW/Mobileye/Intel deal will become the one to define an autonomous car platform is a tougher question.

Jeremy Carlson, a senior analyst with IHS Automotive, pointed out that he’s aware of at least two other companies talking of the central computing architecture for the autonomous car.  One is called zFAS, on which Audi has worked with Delphi (integrating chips from Nvidia and Mobileye). Mercedes-Benz has been working with a Tier One company on a different autonomous car platform, he added.