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Intel's Mobileye and Autonomous Vehicle Startup Udelv Plan to Launch a Delivery Service with up to 35,000 Driverless ‘Transporters'

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【Summary】​Mobileye, the autonomous driving unit of computer hardware giant Intel Corp, announced this week that its self-driving system called “Mobileye Drive” will power thousands of autonomous delivery vehicles (ADVs) built by California startup Udelv. The driverless cargo vehicles are called “Transporters'' and the two companies plan to produce more than 35,000 of them by 2028 with commercial operations beginning in 2023.

Eric Walz    Apr 14, 2021 3:00 PM PT
Intel's Mobileye and Autonomous Vehicle Startup Udelv Plan to Launch a Delivery Service with up to 35,000 Driverless ‘Transporters'
Mobileye and Udelv plans to build up to 35,000 autonomous "Transporters" for commercial deployment.

Mobileye, the autonomous driving unit of computer hardware giant Intel Corp, announced this week that its self-driving system called "Mobileye Drive" will power thousands of autonomous delivery vehicles (ADVs) built by California startup Udelv.

Udelv's driverless cargo vehicles are called "Transporters'' and the two companies plan to produce more than 35,000 of them by 2028, with commercial operations planned for 2023. The driverless vehicles are designed for middle-mile and last mile deliveries. 

The deal is one of the world's largest deployments of autonomous vehicles for commercial purposes.  

Mobileye Drive is a full stack solution designed to handle a range of autonomous vehicle (AV) applications, including robotaxis, consumer passenger cars and commercial delivery vehicles.

The "Mobileye Drive" self-driving system that will be the brains behind the Transporters is built around the company's EyeQ system-on-chip (SoC). It's combined with the company's proprietary Road Experience Management AV mapping solution and Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS), which uses a mathematical model to keep a safe distance from other vehicles at all times.

"Mobileye is the only company providing a full-stack self-driving system with commercial viability and scale today," said Daniel Laury, CEO and co-founder of Udelv. "The readiness of Mobileye Drive along with its vast map coverage of North America, Europe and Asia, will allow us to ramp up the production and deployment of Udelv Transporters and rapidly offer the service at scale to our expanding list of customers."

The driverless Transporters are designed for freight and similar goods and are capable of level-4 self-driving, point-to-point operation. The Transporters support Udelv's proprietary remote tele-operations system, which allows for a human to remotely control the vehicles at the end of the routes, such manauerving in loading zones, parking lots or apartment complexes.

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The Transporters can operate at night.

While many tech startups have focused on the development of self-driving cars, Udeliv was one of the first companies to deploy an autonomous delivery vehicle on public roads in 2018. The company remains focused on the development of autonomous cargo carriers, which operate without a space for a human driver.

The Transporters can be built and scaled more affordably, since they don't require systems for a human occupant, such as seat belts, airbags, windshield wipers, mirrors, and a steering wheel or pedals.

Udelv said it has already performed extensive deployment trials with customers across various industries so the Transporters have been fully tested and are ready for deployment. Udelv has completed over 20,000 deliveries for multiple shipping customers in California, Arizona, and Texas and is preparing for expansion to other states. 

Last-mile delivery is the most expensive part of shipping goods, accounting for 53% of the overall costs, which is a generally accepted number by the industry as a cost of doing business.

At the same time consumers are buying more goods online, and that behavior is not likely to change. Urban last-mile delivery volume is expected to climb by 75 to 80% by 2030, which will require roughly 36% more delivery vehicles on the road. Compounded with a growing shortage of drivers industry-wide, companies will have a difficult time keeping pace with growing demand. 

But Udelv's Transporters can improve the efficiency of last- and middle-mile delivery services, transporting everything from auto parts to groceries and medical supplies using autonomous vehicles.

"Our deal with Udelv is significant for its size, scope and rapid deployment timeline, demonstrating our ability to deliver Mobileye Drive for commercial use now and in volume," said Prof. Amnon Shashua, Mobileye president and CEO. "COVID-19 has accelerated demand for autonomous goods delivery, and we are delighted to partner with Udelv to address this demand in the near term."

While the industry is hampered by the lack of a regulatory framework for the deployment of self-driving vehicles on public roads that are designed to carry passengers, autonomous cargo delivery is much easier to accomplish from an engineering standpoint than a self-driving vehicle carrying passengers in an urban environment.

Former Waymo CEO John Krafcik told reporters in 2019 that driverless (freight) delivery using autonomous vehicles has a better chance of catching on before self-driving vehicles designed to carry passengers.

The first order for 1,000 of the Mobileye-powered Transporters was made by Donlen, one of America's largest commercial fleet management companies. The pre-order is believed to be the largest to date for an autonomous delivery vehicle.

"We are thrilled to be the first customer for the Udelv Transporter," said Tom Callahan, president of Donlen. "The combination of Udelv's zero-emissions Transporter and automated delivery management system with Mobileye Drive will enable sweeping delivery cost reductions, make our roads safer, and lower carbon emissions across America."

Udelv will perform the integration with its Delivery Management System, with Mobileye providing technical oversight. Mobileye will also provide over-the-air software support for the Transporters.

The deal with Udelv advances Mobileye's ambitions to become a mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) provider. In addition to working with Udelv, Mobileye plans to deploy autonomous shuttles with Transdev ATS and Lohr Group beginning in Europe. Mobileye also plans to begin operating an autonomous ride-hailing service in Israel in early 2022, where the company is headquartered.

Intel purchased Mobileye in 2017 for $15.3 billion to gain a foothold in the automotive industry which is being transformed by technology with electrical systems replacing mechanical systems. Mobileye plans to be a global leader in autonomous vehicle technology.

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